Alice wrote stories
for the Otago Witness on commission, this one was titled 'Chalk'.
Who was Alice? Was she the governess to the Grant boys?
Who was Mr Clinton?
Where was his property located?
Where was the school? Was it Pleasant Valley???
Otago Witness, 19 November 1886, Page 31
By Alice, Author of "Fickle Jack," "Grandmother's Story," &c.
Chapter XX. A Journey Down South.
Christchurch railway station presented its usual busy appearance one bright morning in October a few minutes before the express leaves. Porters were busy with the luggage, and there was an unusual number of packing cases for Orari this morning, for the whole party of our friends were off to the "wild purple mountains." Purple and silver-capped they glinted now in the distance. Mrs Grant, breathless and flustered after the unusual and numerous anxieties of the "packing up" and "getting off" process, was seated now beside grannie in a first class apartment, wondering if "pa" — who was looking after the luggage— had forgotten the yellow box and the small green one and left them in the hall at home. The little woman's eyes looked more surprised than ever, so wide open were they with anxiety, and her rosy face was flushed with the exertion of getting the whole household here by 8 a.m., maid servants as well; for both cook and housemaid were to benefit by the change, the gardener and his wife being left to take care of the house and "manage" for Mr Grant when he was in town.
Grannie looked as placid and as fair as she always did, her serene old face just a trifle more serene than usual, the key of her cottage in her pocket, and the cottage left to take care of itself. All the past, all the future as nothing : the present hour all. Bertie at the book stall — looking very manly and handsome in a new grey suit of tweed was purchasing an unlimited supply of newspapers for the journey. Mollie, her pretty face all dimples and blushes, was shyly watching him through the compartment window. Winifred and Mary were seated side by side — Winifred handsome, and hopeful for her dear girl ; Mary, pale, listless as a drooping lily. This departure for the mountains was more pain than pleasure for Mary. Charlie might return and not find her! Since that little grave had been filled in, her empty heart yearned more hungrily for her absent love. In her heart she called him husband. Oh, surely he would see the announcement of the death of their child, and seeing, could but come. Fain would she have remained in town, eating her heart away with vain watching and waiting, but that Winifred, she knew, would not leave her, and Winifred was so anxious, too, for her to accept the invitation of their friends.
Here they all were now, boys and all, fairly started, for the train bore them slowly out of the station, and by and by the suburbs of Christchurch were fast being left behind them and the more open country gained. Rattle, rattle, on they went, pausing every now and again at dreary-looking country stations — the station, an hotel, schoolhouse, church, and a few dozen farmhouses forming the village : not the picturesque villages of old England, where the ivy forms a wreath for cottage and church and clothes poverty with a fantastic dress ; but here the houses were bleak, unfanciful, and freehold. The farmers owned the land, the cattle, and the house. Sturdy urchins waved their hats as the express went by. Rattle, rattle, over dreary miles of yellow plains upon which a thousand sheep were grazing, on over the bridges (a mile or so in length) spanning the grand and turbulent rivers running in swift and divided currents over the rough boulders of their shingly bed. Then on again, over the tussock plains stretching for miles and miles on either side. Orari is reached at about 11 o'clock, and our friends alight upon the little platform. Orari, like many other country stations passed, is bleak and dreary. A whistle and a snort, and on the train rushes on again, and will so rush through grand and, by and by, picturesque country, till night — by majestic forest and solemn mountain, through fertile vale and by blue sea — till it reaches Dunedin.
A yellow mail coach awaits the travellers. The luggage is too bulky to admit of present carriage, and after a little delay Mr Grant makes arrangements for its transit tomorrow. Mrs Grant secures the box containing what garments will be required for present use, and they all pack themselves as they best can into the small coach, the boys on the box with the driver. The seats are low and covered with a remarkably smooth, shiny leather, evidently made to slip passengers off, so that with their knees very high and pressing against the knees opposite, packed as close as figs in a box, the horses' heads are turned to the south-east, and away they start for the mountains. This coach ride is productive of much merriment ; the road is full of ruts, and the passengers by the "royal mail coach" in the most unexpected manner are jerked forward every now and again almost into their opposite neighbour's lap, and before breath can be drawn for apology the coach suddenly rights itself and heads are bumped at the back. On they go. Gorse hedges, golden and bright and fragrant in bloom, a cabbage tree, and a rut ; toi-toi, gorse hedge, cabbage tree — rut: cabbage tree, toi-toi, clump of flax — rut ; cottage, willows, paddocks — rut ; stream, toi-toi, more flax, another rut; jumble, jostle, bump, over a shingly bed; farmhouse, group of outhouses, fields of green wheat and oats, men working in the fields — bump into a deeper rut than all ; more gorse hedges neatly trimmed, belt of poplars and firs, a plantation of oaks and willows and sycamores, a sweep of velvety lawns, a sudden burst of bright flowers; a glimpse of a handsome villa lying far back from the road, another white gate — and a rut ; more trim hedges, open paddocks of English grass, gentle cows grazing—bump ; high neglected hedges on either side ; acres and acres of yellow tussock, sheep, flax, toi-toi, and silence deep and long, broken only by the singing of. the larks rising from a hundred lowly nests, carolling into the glorious blue of a cloudless day. So on for an hour the road grows smoother, cottages begin to appear, the road takes various picturesque and fantastic curves more villas, more cottages, a good metalled road beneath the horses' feet, and the royal mail coach rattles through a street of shops, deposits the mail-bag at the post office, rattles on again through an admiring crowd of curious inhabitants, and pulls up with great state and dignity before the chief hotel of Geraldine.
J. Mundell & Co. Coach Proprietors and Auctioneers, Geraldine
There was much aching of backs and stretching of limbs and shaking out of petticoats as our friends alighted. They were conducted to a comfortable private sittingroom on the second floor, and in due course a good luncheon was served, after partaking of which Mr Grant, Bertie, and the boys went to explore Geraldine, while the ladies rested and supped their tea.
Geraldine was a pretty little township, with its river in the valley and bush on the low hills, post office, telegraph office, bank, churches, school, and a whole street of shops — quite an important place in its way. A delightful dreamy little nook for tourists. Mr Grant came back with the information that the coach proceeded no farther on its way till the arrival of the evening train, which it went back to Orari to meet, and then in its royal mail service proceeded as far as Waihi Bush, reaching there about 8 p.m. "We can't wait for the coach," concluded Mr Grant, unless we decide to stop at Waihi all night, for Clinton's place lies five miles farther south. In any case Clinton left his horses and buggy at the stables at Waihi for, us, for the coach does not go farther than the township. Shall we remain where we are all night, or after a six hours rest proceed as far as Waihi to-night, and finish our journey to-morrow morning. Bertie here came in with the intelligence that if they did not care to wait for the coach's return from Orari, the proprietor of the stables could let them have a buggy and a pair of horses and a man to drive them to Waihi about 5 in the evening. This announcement was hailed with delight, the travellers had had enough of the little yellow coach with the hard slippery seats running on her Majesty's Royal Mail Service. They had three hours to wait, so Mary, grannie, and Mrs Grant went to lie down, and Winifred and Mollie sat at the window and talked, while the gentlemen and boys went to explore the bush.
At 5 o'clock they were once more upon their way, this time in an open and roomy buggy. The air was warm and still. The sky covered with a curtain of uniform cloud of a dark chocolate hue. Except for a broad belt round the horizon of pale, clear blue, against which the majestic range of mountains, now but eight miles distant, stood out in bold and dark relief. The shadowed sky intensified the green of the fields and the foliage of the trees. It was a pleasant drive. The hidden sun sank lower and lower behind the cloud curtain, fringing it with deep rich gold. Presently it would burst out into the belt of blue with sudden glory, then sink anon behind the mountain peaks, and the clouds would change from chocolate and white to burning, glowing crimson and orange. The road was better than that traversed in the morning, the scenery much the same. There was a riverbed to cross, but the stream was easily forded, being low. The smoke curled upwards from the chimneys of the farmhouses into the still air. There were no sounds except the occasional bark of a dog or bleat of a lamb. Quiet hillocks and hollows spread around. In the soft quiet of the tranquil evening they drove on the accompaniment of the trip trop, trip trop, trip trop, trop, of the horses' hoofs along the soft road.
The perfumed air, the hush of eve,
To purer hopes appealing.
O'er thoughts perchance too prone to grieve
Scattered the balm of healing.
The fields of green grain in a few more months would spread plenty o'er the land in rich and yellow sheaves, the grass be ripe for mowing. At length Waihi is reached —
Behold the village rise,
In rural pride, 'mong intermingled trees!
Above whose aged tops the joyful swains.
At eventide, descending from the hill
With eye enamour'd mark the many wreaths
Of pillar'd smoke, high curling to the clouds,
The streets resound with Labour's various voice
Who whistles at his work.
Work ending days' labour, the horses from the field are waiting patiently for the labourer to take down the rail and give them entrance to the stable and their corn ; old men are calmly leaning over their garden gates smoking their pipes ; cows are being driven home for milking; children are romping together in the quiet street; a group of men are standing round the smithy door watching the smith shoe a horse ; the birds are flying nestward to the bush near, behind which the Southern Alps loom dark and awful in the fading light, range upon range, peak upon peak, till their snowtops seem to touch the crimson of the sunset sky.
The hotel affords but scant accommodation, a dish of fried chops; another of bacon and eggs, bread, butter and tea proving the bill of fare. Our friends are too hungry to be dainty, however, and too sleepy when they retire to their rooms take much notice of rough furniture.
It was past noon next day when they resumed their journey. They were taking it by easy stages on account of Mary, and grannie. Had the others been alone they would have, completed it in one day but Mary was weak and grannie was old. Mollie was in extravagant spirits and kept up a running fire of comical commentary on the manners and customs of the "natives"' as she called them, and declared the bacon given them, for breakfast was rock salt flavoured by being put into a pickle where bacon had been.
It was a blazing hot day, although but the end of spring. Far as the eye could
reach it was a dazzling blaze. The cows in the paddocks, lazily chewing the cud,
slashed from their sides the flies with their tails. The grasshoppers were
chirping loudly among the tussocks. A careless herd boy slumbered peacefully,
his head upon his arm, stretched at full length under the grateful shade made by
a clump of flowering broom — his herd left to scour the. plains at will. They
were going south direct south from Waihi, their destination being
The road ran parallel with the mountains, though not along their base,
undulating land intervening, dotted here and there with farmhouse. The
mountains dazzling tips lowered on high, the spurs and deep ravines fern clad
and bush adorned.
As they proceeded on their way, and Waihi bush settlement was five miles behind them, silence and grandeur reigned complete. Behind lower hills and undulating land towered four peaks tremendous, craggy, and high among the fleecy clouds, the lower hills covered with bush. Mr Grant drew up the panting horses, and pointing with his whip, said : "You see that white speck standing on that green patch on the spur of that low hill encircled with those other and higher hills with bush all round it, and the craggy peaks towering behind. That is Clinton's place. If we follow this road, it is so circuitous, we shall be a long while yet before we reach it, for the road takes one right to the back of the bush. When I was here last, Clinton and I took a direct cut across the country, and were there in no time. The question is, "Shall we follow the road or take the short cut?" " Take the short cut " was the unanimous cry; so they took it. First Bertie got down and let them through a rail into an unploughed field of tussock. This was pretty well. The horses took their own time, and they jogged along for fifteen minutes, startling at every step a dozen larks and a thousand chirping grasshoppers. Timid sheep went scampering away; their lambs bleating after them. This was pretty well, a little jolly, but the ladies only looked at one another and smiled. Another rail taken down, and put up again; and they were on sort of a roadway running for the convenience of drays, between acres and acres of wheat and turnip fields. This was not quite so well, being full of mound-like rises and deep ruts, designed by nature for express purpose of accommodating the right wheels or the buggy with arise and at the same time the left wheels with a rut.
" Confound it."
"Good gracious "
" Oh!" and a burst of laughter from the boys all at the same time. Mr Grant pulled up, and turned round.
"Rather rough, isn't it ?"
"Oh, pa it's awful. We shall all be 'capsized.' It will loosen all our teeth," said Mollie.
"It jolts like the deuce," said Bertie.
"It makes my head ache," laughed grannie.
"Isn't it hot," sighed Mary.
"I suppose it wouldn't do to turn back and go round by the road " suggested Winifred, holding a large umbrella over Mary.
Mr Grant rubbed his nose thoughtfully with the whip handle.
" No," he said slowly ; "hardly. We have come a long way, and I think it is better ahead." Everybody looked ahead — it certainly looked better.
" Here, you boys," said their father, "you get down and walk. It is rather heavy on the horses. Go to the end of the roadway, and then wait till we come up."
The coming up process was a very slow one. After a few more yards of it, Bertie - alighted also. They were all in a state of perspiration when they came up with the boys. The next stage was a newly-ploughed field.
" Oh, pa, I thought you said you had been this way before?"
"So I did, my dear; but now come to think of it, I was on horseback."
They all laughed in spite of their discomfiture, and all with one accord alighted, preferring to try the ploughed land on foot. Bertie took Mary and grannie, one on each arm. Tom Grant gave his arm to his mother, the others following as best they could.
Mr Grant went on with the buggy, which looked very much like a cork bobbing up and down on troubled water. The ploughed land extended itself in the most bountiful manner all the way up a rise and all the way down the other side. In the hollow it came to a stop, and thick fern took the. lead and covered the side of the next gentle rise. Mr Grant had been enthusiastic about these "gentle rises." They were most picturesque, doubtless. Here they were on all sides of them, fern clad, ploughed, tussock carpeted, hiding— when in the hollows — even the desired haven, nestling at the base of Four Peaks, from view, Bertie came along with the two panting women.
" Mr Grant, think you have been taking 'gentle rise' out of us with this 'short cut.'"
"Upon my soul, Young, I'm awfully sorry. It is five years since I was this way, and I had forgotten the nature of it."
"The nature of it is perfectly heathenish," declared Mollie, sinking down upon the couch of fern. ", About how many more miles can you guarantee of this sort of thing, Mr Grant? It is a strain with variations if you like."
"Shouldn't, be surprised if there is a bog in the next hollow," remarked Bertie.
" I propose we ladies, all strike," said Mary and refuse to go farther unless you gentlemen improvise a palanquin and carry us"
"As far as I am concerned," put in Winifred, " I do not mind it in the least on my own account, nor on Mollie's much," she added, smiling at Mollies flushed face. "It is for Mrs Grant, Mary, and grannie I am concerned. "Grannie, what do you say to it ?"
"I leave myself entirely in all your hands, my dears. I'm not dead yet, and, what is more, I don't mean to die until I have had a cup of tea."
The boys here broke in on the laughing conversation with the information that on the top of the next rise the land spread out in a flat terrace for a long way. This was encouraging, so the party scrambled to their feet, and scrambled up through the ferny rise. Yes, there was a long sweep of smooth, tussocky land. On this higher land Four Peaks was visible again — indeed the magnificent range seemed to rise with sudden abruptness from the yellow stretch of tableland, and the white house no longer looked a toy house in the far distance, but its brown roof and ivy-grown chimneys showed distinctly amid its surrounding forest. They were almost encircled now by the towering range and as the horses trotted on they had leisure to admire the solemn grandeur of mountain and forest. These mountains from the distance looked purple and smooth, their outlines but dimly defined. Here, close at hand they unfolded their beauty of verdant slopes, deep and dark ravines, jagged and rugged spurs, lofty, silent, barren heights, clusters of dark bush, sheltering arms, arid shady nooks. Nestling in one of these was the homestead they made for, securely sheltered from stormy winds, looking, with its smooth green lawns, like a flower growing among silent and solitary magnificence— "born to blush unseen." Nearer and nearer they come, their voices echoing back from the steep mountain sides. Only a belt of trees interveen now between them and the green sheltered lawn, they drive through a natural avenue between the native trees, from which are suspended festoons of white star-like blossoms, they emerge from the twilight shade, and deep down in a craggy hollow at their feet thunders and roars a mountain stream, on the opposite bank another thick belt of trees, behind that Four Peaks farm. "Well, here's a pretty fix !" ejaculates Mr Grant, after a long, blank silence.
"My dear Will, where have we come to ?''
"Four Peaks, by the short cut, little woman."
"Well, give me circuitous roads after this, pa ! for if we haven't come over fourty-four peaks to get here, I never did. I ache in every bone in my body, and if the others ache in increased proportion to their size, well I'm sorry for you all. How are we to get to the house ?"
" I suppose you wouldn't care to go back, my love ?"
" Pa, I am ashamed of you. It is no joke we want our tea?
"Well, there is plenty of water down there, bubbling and boiling too, if we only had a teapot "
" Pa !"
"Well, ladies," said Mr Grant, turning round, "I owe you a thousand apologies. I forgot all about this short cut, and I can't express my regret. There is only one thing to be done — unharness the horses and lead you over on horseback, one by one. Young and I must take off our v shoes and stockings and lead the horses across.
Never was there such laughing, and screaming, as one after another were taken across. The stream was deep and rapid, tumbling and seething over the boulders. At length they were all on the opposite bank — horses and all — the buggy left to its fate for the night. They pushed through the belt of trees, crossed the lawn and entered from the broad verandah the parlour of the farmhouse.
The servants had been sent on early in the morning, and had made themselves sufficiently acquainted with the premises to have prepared a savoury repast. The cloth was spread, all was in readiness. Very homely, indeed, looked the long, low room, with its spotless muslin curtains hanging before the open French windows. The chairs and couches were covered with rose sprinkled, faded chintz, as old-fashioned as possible, but the cushions were large and stuffed with downy feathers. On retiring to the bedchambers the ladies found the beds were large and soft, draped in snowy white, matting on the floors, washstand, chest of drawers, a chair or two, and a toilet table, composed of a packing case draped in white muslin. The furniture was of the simplest description, but was scrupulously clean. (To be continued.)
Otago Witness, 26 November 1886, Page 31
Chapter XXI. On the Wild Purple Mountains.
When Winifred stepped from her bed chamber upon the lawn next morning, the mist still hovered round the distant hills. The blue sky above had a clear, pale softness — not a speck of cloud upon its breast. Silent and mighty, peak above peak reared the mountains on three sides, and from the dense bush at the back of the house and above and around came a chorus of strange wild, weird notes of native birds. Silent and grand it was among those majestic mountains. A human being — a human life — seemed to lose its significance. Man became but an atom 'mid the gorgeous display of nature : an atom, yet kin to it, part of it. The soul humbled and soothed lost itself if the harmony, with a pleasing kind of pain or in a sudden flood of ecstacy, soared aloft with the skylark's song. The golden sunlight smiled into "the deep heart of the glens" and touched the mountains, "tinged the hills," and flooded the undulating country they had traversed the day before.
Shady thickets embraced the lawn, high forest trees were rich in bloom, clumps of sweet eglantine and hawthorn we're dotted here and there, roses were blooming in rich luxuriance, and the air was sweet with the fragrance of the garlands of the honeysuckle that twined round the pillars of the verandah running round three sides of the house. The embowered and unseen mountain torrent could be heard dashing down in the gully over the boulders and ferns. The bees were humming among the old-fashioned flowers — wallflowers, carnations, sweet William, primroses, and violets — all lending their sweet breath to the scented air.
The wind had no more strength than this.
That leisurely it blew:
To make one leaf the next to kiss
That closely by it grew.
In such rural sequestration it was natural to suppose that its deep, quiet would restore the heart, renovating and refreshing both mind and body. Few indeed there are who can altogether escape the beneficial influence of such scenes; and our friends, as they climbed, day after day, some lofty eminence, or followed a natural and rough path over winding slope, or sauntered on a retired and difficult way through copes and thicket, found much delight in noting tree and shrub and
That Intermixture of delicate hues,
Along so vast a surface, all at once.
At the end of two weeks Mr Grant and Bertie went back to the city— the merchant refreshed in body and mind ; his accountant also — and never did Bertie "peg in," as he expressed it, with more zeal than he did now in gratitude for his master's kindness, both in the friendship and hospitality extended - to him during the past two weeks and for the promised holiday of two weeks more at Christmas. It was the 10th of November when Bertie resumed his stool at his office desk, and David Copperfield's aunt never counted off the days of David's stay at home more anxiously than Bertie did the days that must intervene between now and the 24th of December.
He fancied his tweed suit retained the scent of the ferns and wild flowers of the mountains, and used his coat sleeves very much as delicate ladies do their smelling salts as a reviver. If it was not efficacious as a cure for headache, it cured him for a moment or so of heartache ; for as he told the ceiling very frequently at Mrs Brown's lodgings: "Town is confoundly dull with your women folk all in the country."
What astonished him more than anything else was the manner in which he missed Mollie. He had been so accustomed to "pop in" at any time and hour the inclination took him, that now these times and hours seemed astonishingly often in recurrence and remarkably long in duration. Grannie had given him the key of the cottage, so that he might occasionally have a peep at things. He took a peep almost, every evening but "things," somehow, didn't look right. He would let himself in at the little gate and gaze around him absently, at the flowers growing in untrimmed luxuriance in the pretty garden. The cream roses were out twining round the verandah — Mollies favourite roses, and the blossoming jasamine intermingled with them. He religiously watered Grannie's pot plants every time he came and Mollies green boxes of mignonette. The pretty and numerous knickknacks on the parlour tables and shelves all spoke eloquently of Mollie. The antimacassars, closed piano, neatly piled up music books, had the same voice. Here and there were little gifts of his to her on her birthday — there was his own violin by the piano, Grannie's comfortable arm-chair, his chair opposite Mollies own....
Meanwhile "on the wild purple mountains " the ladies were enjoying themselves in their own way. Not such a bad way, either. Part of the morning Winifred devoted to the boys' studies ; then they were free to wander where they would, returning to their meals with such vigorous appetites that their mother's heart was delighted. All the lighter portion of the housework the ladies accomplished themselves, the cook and housemaid blessing them for being thus allowed plenty of time to make holiday too.
Neighbours had called from the nearest stations and invitations had been given and received. One drawback was they could not ride ; so a stalwart young farmer undertook to teach them. Winifred, Mollie, and Mrs Grant (including the boys) all took lessons, and proved apt pupils. Mary declined. She felt too weak, too timid ; so she remained with gentle old Grannie, while the others went scouring the country for miles.
Once they went, on horseback, far up and into the ranges — the broad road gradually narrowing until it was merely a track for the horses' feet, rough and circuitous, with a thundering mountain gorge tearing along deep down in the hollow by its side, falling in small cascades over great boulders, tearing through ferns and mosses, scattering spray that sparkled in the sunbeams. They rode for some miles and seemed in the very heart of the mountain, when suddenly they came upon a party of surveyors whose tent was pitched upon a small patch of tableland surrounded by high hills. These gentlemen were boiling their billy for tea gipsy fashion when the party rode up, and proving to be friends of Mr and Mrs Grant, they dismounted, and sitting upon the grass, all drank tea out of the pannikins.
Another excursion was to Peel Forest, miles away, to visit the sawmills, the whole party going in a buggy. It was a delightful drive through magnificent country. The mill was built upon the outskirts of the forest ; many of the noble trees had already been cut down. The proprietor, as hospitable as the rest of the country folk, caused a huge tree to be hewn down in the forest, that his visitors might see the whole performance of its being made into boards. They saw it hewn down, brought from the forest on trollies all covered with clinging moss and leaves, brought into the mill and meet the angry teeth of the humming saws, passing from saw to saw till it was left a neatly stacked pile of tongued and grooved boards. Then they partook of luncheon in the geranium-covered cottage near the mill, went down into the sawdust pits, and afterwards drove for a couple of miles through a natural avenue in the twilight of the bush. The giant trees, were the home of hundreds of birds, tall fern, trees grew under their shadow, and white star blossoms so thickly flowered on some of the trees as to give them the appearance of being sprinkled with a fall of snow. The turf underfoot was almost as soft and smooth as moss, making a carpet for the horses' hoofs.
Oh, happy! who the city's noise
Can quit for Nature's quiet joys.
(to be continued.)
Otago Witness, 3 December 1886, Page 31
Chapter XXIII. Christmas in the Country
When the express steamed up to the little platform at Orari on Christmas Eve, half a dozen chattering Maoris — dressed in their own peculiarly fantastic style, with bright hued pocket handkerchiefs tied over their dark heads — alighted from a second-class compartment, and Mr Grant and Bertie from a first-class compartment. The Maoris went their way jabbering and laughing and calling out to each other at the pitch of their voices, as is their wont, and. the gentlemanly Europeans raised their hats in much pleasure and some astonishment to a party of ladies who had just ridden up on horseback, none other than Mrs Grant, Winifred, and Mollie. After the first greetings were over, Mr Grant exclaimed :
" Well, little woman, these are high jinks for your time of life! At 40 years of age you have the audacity to mount a smart mare for the first time in your life. I must see into this. I begin to think it is about time you came back to town."
" Oh, pa ! isn't it jolly ! Such fun we have had learning to ride. One of the neighbouring station-holders has taken infinite pains with our lessons ; such a pleasant young man. And don't you think we do our riding master credit ?"
They did indeed. Winifred and Mollie looked their best. They were well mounted and sat their horses like accomplished horsewomen. Both the girls had the knack of doing whatever they did well. This surprise had been planned with great delight among the women. How the gentlemen would stare to see their quiet towns women cantering along to meet them. And they did. Bertie had been picturing Mollie in a most delightful mountain seclusion, and here she was on a spirited horse, looking as if she had been there a number of times, and looking, too, most bewitching in her well fitting habit of blue cloth and coquettish little cap.
Not for nothing had Mrs Grant been tailoring for those boys for 16 years. A
roll "of cloth, had been purchased at Geraldine, and for a whole week the
farmhouse parlour had been the scene of a grand cutting out, and tacking on, and
taking in, snipping, pinning, and stitching match ; and here was the result —
three ladies wearing blue cloth habits worthy of a professional tailor. " How
are we to get to Clinton's ?" asked Mr Grant. " The royal mail coach is at your
service, gentlemen," laughed Mollie; "as far as Geraldine, where there are
horses at your command." Laughing heartily at their own discomfiture, the
gentlemen took box-seats, while the ladies cantered alongside. "We are entirely
independent of your escort," said Mrs Grant, beaming lovingly upon her spouse ;
" and can take our own short cuts, and have been taking them up hill and down
dale for weeks past."
At Geraldine stables the gentlemen obtained horses, and were soon all cantering along talking and laughing merrily. At length Bertie and Mollie found themselves in the rear of the others. Mollie turned her flushed face to Bertie : " You don't compliment me on ray equestrian accomplishments, Bertie." " Neither do you say you have missed me, Mollie." Mollies heart gave a great, glad bound, and she bent, forward quickly to pat her horse's neck so to hide her blushes. Then she sat up and said demurely : " I have had no time to miss you particularly, Bertie. The country is perfectly delightful— when one is a visitor! It is one continual round of visiting ; not formal calls like town visiting, but a 10-mile scamper over the country, dinner in your habit, then home again by moonlight with a body-guard of gallant knights." Bertie looked not pleased to hear it. "Who is that fine fellow who gave you riding lessons?" Another bound at Mollies heart. Was Bertie jealous? She blushed rosy red at the thought. Bertie saw the blush and mistook the cause. He dug his spurs into his horse in a manner the animal resented. "That fine fellow, Bertie, is a fine fellow indeed. You will have the pleasure of an introduction this evening. Grannie and Mrs Grant have returned the courtesy of our neighbours, and invited half the country side to meet you and Mr Grant. We eat our Christmas dinner at eight o'clock this evening in the cool of the twilight. On Boxing night we go to a concert 10 miles away at Hae-hae-te-Moana Valley."'
It was not in Bertie's nature to be glum and disagreeable ; besides what right had he to appropriate Mollie ? None at all he told himself. The only chance for him now if he desired to win Mollie was to "cut the other fellow out," and he couldn't do that by ill temper, so vanishing the sulks he became his own good tempered self, and presently his tremendous "ha-ha-ha" was echoing among the hills.
Mollie was right, half the country side was invited to dinner. No room in the
house affording sufficient accommodation, one of the large barns had been
cleared out in true New Zealand fashion and turned into a perfect tower of
shurbs and flowers— roses of all shades and hues smiling their welcome among the
evergreens. With the twilight came the guests from far and near, most of
the ladies sitting down to dinner in their habits. A merry and pleasant party,
among which Mary sat with gently smiling lips and hungry sad eyes. Bertie
regarded her attentively in a flower-like beauty seated beneath a canopy of
ferns brought for decorative purposes from the bush, and then said to Winifred
who, sat on his left hand : "How fair and fragile Mary looks, Winifred. This
change brings no roses to her cheeks." "She is not here, Bertie; is her
mind ever following Charles, her heart ever calling .to him. We have all sought
by every means within our power to divert her thoughts, but it is all no use.
Look at her now smiling as she listens to Mr Grant's conversation, she scarcely
hears him, she does not heed, everything is all one to her, wanting Charlie. Her
appetite, too, is wretched. I am growing more anxious over her every day, and if
there is no improvement before you return to town I must ask Mrs Grant to excuse
us, and we will return with you. I have not been idle, Bertie, I have employed a
portion of my time in writing some descriptions of these glorious mountains, and
have made £50 quite. This will keep us some time. I cannot leave Mary at home
alone when we return, for she is not fit to be left alone. I trust by music and
drawing lessons given at home to be able to maintain us."
"You know, Winifred, I will do anything to help you, if you will let me. I have never been a spendthrift, and, well — " and here Bertie stammered and blushed, not liking to offer in words any material help. "If Mary needed anything I could not get, I should ask you, Bertie," said Winifred, simply, " her father was your friend."There was a dignity and pride about those last words which seemed to imply, there would be no obligation in receiving a return kindness for his child, many had Bertie received at his hands. "He was, indeed," responded Bertie, warmly, "most truly my friend in every way. Strange there is no news from him yet." "Patience! " murmured Winifred, half to herself and half to her companion, remembering a last reading of Longfellow to her guardian.
" ' Patiance ' whispered the oaks from oracular caverns of darkness ;
And, from the moonlit meadow, a sigh responded, To-morrow ! ' "
After the dinner was over the tables were cleared away, and dancing was indulged in. The piano had been established upon a raised platform at the end of the barn upon which, as the evening wore away, one and another of the obliging guests performed. Those who did not dance crossed the moonlit lawn, and entering the drawingroom remained spellbound listening to the voices of Winifred and Mary as they blended together. Mary consented to sing. The old loved pastime of singing with her friend had been forgotten of late. To-night the girl sang with a power and passion she seldom displayed. Now she was a child again, dressed all in white, singing in the school, with ragged Chalk at her side, old Christmas carols sweet and quaint. Now she was a happy girl, with Charles passionate wooing sounding in her ears — now her voice wailed in a passionate goodbye—now she was moaning her dead baby. Her eyes grew bright and her cheeks, flushed. Winifred regarded her anxiously, but she turned impatiently from the pleading glance of the black eyes, and with a merry sally took the arm of a gentleman to the barn, and before Winifred could realise that Mary intended to dance she was whirling round to the soft alluring strains of a dreamy waltz. Her face looked lovely in the brilliantly decorated ballroom, well lighted by wax candles and a number of pink Chinese lanterns. Her dress of black lace— half mourning for her dead — set off the fairness of her skin and the golden sheen of her hair. The wave of unnatural excitement that had swept over her had tinted her cheeks and lips with a beautiful rose, a colour beside which even Mollie's brilliant complexion feared rivalship. Mollie, partly in, sheer simple enjoyment, and partly in mischief, was making Berlie's heart ache somewhat, although he took it all good humoredly, he was secretly jealous of everyone who danced, or walked, or talked with Mollie. And that was every gentleman there, for laughing Mollie was a general favourite. A very particular favourite with the young stationholder. That was evident to even uninterested eyes. In her pale lilac muslin, half smothered in cream lace, the girl looked pretty enough to delight the heart of any man. It was a new experience to Bertie to see her surrounded and made much of. So long she had been associated in his mind with the quiet little parlour and her grannie, that, although he had never thought about it in reality, the idea seemed fixed that Mollie would always form a quiet background for his life. That idea had been rudely scouted, and the folly of it made manifest to-night. Molly live to be his own particular friend always? Not if some other men could have a say in it. Perhaps the yearning look in Bertie's eyes made Mollies laugh so glad. She had waited so long for it. But Mollie's was a proud spirit, and at the first beckon from her love she would not answer. It should not be with her another story of the letter L," for ever longing to be able to say : —
And now the deep secure content,
Of wives who have been hardly won,
And, long petitioned, gave assent. '
Jealous of none.
But proudly sure in all the earth,
No other in that homage shares.
Nor other woman's face or worth
Is prized as theirs.
Mollie had read that story and pitied that wife's "regretful questionings," and her pathos where confiding her doubts of the husband's undivided love— to her friend she said —
" For once." she turned away her head,
Across the grass she swept her hand',
" There was a letter once," she said
"Upon the sand."
She must be won, and so she danced and smiled while Bertie wished there had been no Southern Alps in the geography of New Zealand, so Mollie had been safe at home. It was not coquetry in Mollie, no breaking of a country heart for pastime ere she went to town. Was Bertie growing to love her ? It was all the world — the answer to that question — to her. She had loved him long, but she must be wooed before she was won, and Bertie who knew nothing of her fond love, silently bemoaned the ass he was to have lost her. He was one of those rare living types of humanity who did not believe himself capable of winning any woman's love, or think that every girl who smiled at him thought him king of men. A rare species in these times, but as a consequence of a want of faith in his " lady-killing " powers he retained that simple deference, and honest admiration for, and gallant courtesy towards, the observant sex that made him a great favourite, these old fashioned qualities still retaining a great attraction for the fair. Bertie's eyes once opened to the fact that Mollie had been in reality, for long and long, the soft rich colouring to his life, wondered now in much amazement how it was he had not known it. The opening process of his eyes, to where his light shone, had been like as it is with many another, the going out of that light. Had Mollie never left the cottage, the cottage would never have looked empty. Bertie obtained one waltz with Mollie, and afterwards a stroll in the perfumed moonlit garden. He was a devoted lover now, no longer the complacent friend. That little stroll among the roses was a stroll into paradise for Mollie, for Bertie's eyes bent down upon her with a tenderness in their grey depth she had never seen there before, and his strong voice was very gentle when he told her how sweet and pretty she was, and that he did not wonder that everyone loved her, everyone would be fools who didn't, and that it made him glad to see her happy. He was true in this. His nature was as trusting and generous as Charles Mason's was jealous and exciting. Could Bertie know he was Mollies best loved he would have grudged no love she gave to others, distrustful of no attention bestowed upon her, but proud and glad that in a loving, heart he reigned the king, and among a thousand admiring, tender friends his love and attention was prized above all. It is not much to be all in all to a woman whom no one else can love. A poor triumph at least to be, chief in an empty kingdom. The woman who prizes the love of one man, beyond the love of others who tried to win by wooing her is the heart a man may pride in. An unwooed girl has an untested heart. How can a girl tell that her first lover will be her chief love ?
All but Winifred rejoiced to see Mary's unusual gaiety, and Winifred knew it was not joy, but the hollow, painted mockery of the sweet unaffected gaiety of the girl's past years! Among the jovial, cheerful crowd of faces the fair face moved. It was the ghost ' of joy risen from its burial, and looked with hollow eyes upon the scenes in which it used to smile. Mollie, the Grants, Bertie, all who loved the girl except Grannie, and her best friends were delighted to hear her laugh and to see her dance. Winifred's thoughtful eyes followed the slender graceful figure, like some patient angel, and when Mary was for a moment left alone in the garden— her partner having gone to procure her some lemonade — she slid up to her. "Mary, dearest, do not dance again ; you will tire yourself." Mary turned her flushed face in the moonlight, and tearing from a rosebush every blossom within her reach and throwing them one by one away, exclaimed bitterly : — "Tire myself Oh, heaven, as if I could , grow more weary than I am ____ " she was about to say more when her partner returned with the lemonade. (to be continued.)
Otago Witness, 10 December 1886, Page 31
" I am tired of my Borrow." Winifred stood still, watching Mary until she re-entered the flower-decked barn. It made a bright and pretty picture, standing as it did at the foot of a darkly wooded hill, a flood of rose-hued light issuing from its open door. This party, given by the Grants, was evidently a success, for song and laughter and happy voices echoed on the still air from both house and barn. Winifred's efforts to aid her kind friend and hostess in the entertainment of the guests had been unabated and by no means unavailing. She had contributed the best music of the evening, and had pleased many, but she could not dance. Dance in sight of those" newly-made graves. Dance when her guardian was — where? Dance when her darling's heart was breaking? Breaking she knew!
The concert that Mollie had spoken of to Bertie was to be held at Hae-Hae-te Mona "Valley, 10 miles away, on Boxing Night. Boxing Day was broiling hot, a nor'-wester blowing. Hot ! that was scarcely the word for it, the furious northerly blast came raging over miles of parched plains, bringing with it an oppressing sense of suffocation, making the limbs languid. The sky was of a pale blue, the flowers in the garden, exposed to the ardent rays of the sun, began to wilt and wither. Oh, for the cool of the evening 1 Meanwhile our party betake themselves to the cool twilight of the dense bush on the hill slope behind the house, and talk with pity of those following their noonday occupations amid the glare and dust of the hot town.
Bertie and Mollie had strayed away from the rest, Bertie having called upon Mollie to aid him in the search of a supplejack suitable for a walking stick. At length one was selected, and Bertie sat now on a mossy seat, trimming it off with his pocket knife. Mollie seated beside him. Suddenly he demanded:."Your gallant riding-master will trot beside our buggey to the Valley to-night, I presume? " Why not ?" queried Mollie. Bertie did not say at once, he cut away at his supplejack with a tremendous show of energy. He seemed uncommonly warm too, and taking off his wide aawke threw it upon the ground, "How I wish we could send off some of this excessive heat to the dear ones over the seas," he exclaimed. I think it is perfectly delightful, Bertie. Taking it all together this is just the happiest summer I have spent in my life. These dear old forests and grand mountains. I could spend my life among them," "Oh, but," said Bertie eagerly, "in the winter it is just beastly — snow, and blow, and rain! And farmers can't sit before a blazing fire all day, Mollie ; there is too much to be done. You wouldn't like it really," urged Bertie with as much earnestness as if it were of some vital importance that Mollie should be convinced, " You think not? " smilingly replied she ; "oh, but if I became a farmer's wife I shouldn't feed the pigs, and shear the sheep, nor make the butter. I should consider myself and expect to be considered in the light of an ornament, and as such sit in the drawing room and simply ring the bell when I wanted anything." "But seriously, Molly, you wouldn't marry a farmer?" " And seriously, Bertie, why not " Why, because I want you to marry me I " blurted out Bertie, bending forward and taking her hands. " No, Mollie, don't speak yet don't answer me till you have heard me out. I have been loving you half my life without knowing it.
Otago Witness, Issue 1830, 17 December 1886, Page 30
Chapter XXV.' A Concert in the Country.
The evening came on calm and cool. Mr Grant was to drive Mrs Grant, Grannie, and Mary with the two younger boys in the buggy. Bertie, Mollie, Winifred, and Tom Grant had gone on, as previously arranged, several .hours earlier by another route to that which would be taken by the buggy. They rode to a farmhouse within three miles of the valley, and here they dined. Their host and hostess (who were of course going also to the concert — a concert being a rare dissipation in these latitudes) prevailed upon them to leave their horses and walk the remaining distance, promising them by way of reward a pretty view of Hae-hae-te-Maona Valley by sunset. Nothing lost, they fell in with the proposal, and set off— up a ploughed hill to begin with. " More short cuts" laughed Mollie. Then a post and wire fence to clamber over on top, a ferny incline the other side with a deep ditch at the bottom, tussocks on the opposite side, and down the next incline; then turnips for a change; then newly-mown hay, and. so on up hill and down dale, until beneath them lay the valley very peaceful and quiet in the fading light. The Valley was long, and narrow, running from north to south between mountains bordering it along its western side, and these, undulating hills on the east. A river glided quietly along between its shingly beds, like a broad ribbon of silver beneath the darkening sky. The clouds over the grim western mountains were tinted yet with fast-paling sunset hues, and one; solitary star shone large and bright above, a rugged peak. Very silent and very solitary looked the vale. Their guides conducted them to a smooth rock, which they said gave an echo as of falling water— an echo which was only discernible at this still hour. They listened. Yes, a soft low sound as of water tricklee, trickle, trickling.
Very soon the silence of the valley was broken in upon by the sound of wheels, horses' hoofs, and voices on the road below. The party of pedestrians clambered down to the road, and as they trudged along were passed again and again with buggy loads of merrymakers, or others on horseback, or others again quietly jogging along in a dray. At length the schoolhouse where the concert, was to be was reached, or rather it made a bright, picture on the opposite bank of the river. The river was low at this season, and those in vehicles or on horseback easily forded it. For those on foot there was an alarmingly narrow bridge two feet in width, and to all appearance a quarter of a mile in length, spanning as it did the river bed from bank to bank. There was a rail on one side only, and oh, how it did swing! and what an almost irresistible, impulse there was to go to the side the rail was not. Bertie found it necessary for Mollie's safety to put his arm round her waistband. Winifred gave her hand to Tom Grant, who in common with his brothers delighted any trifling service to their governess friend. "And this is the bridge the eastern side of the valley children cross to school every day," said Winifred. "Why, Tom, what would your mother say to Willie and Ernest crossing this narrow plank, when the river was one broad raging torrent from bank to bank, as it is in time of winter rains ? " "Go mad, the mother would," replied Tom, "yet I daresay the country youngsters run over without fear." At the schoolroom door there was a crowd collected, laughing, talking, greeting, and introducing one another in the dark. Our party were conducted to seats of honour near the stage, where Mr Grant and the ladies under his escort were already seated.
The room was tastefully decorated with pretty flowering shrubs and festoons
of flowers. Over the doorway the audience were bade " Welcome " in blossoms of
white, upon the walls they were wished a " Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
" in red and pink and cream roses. The stage itself was a perfect fernery, tall
fern trees from the bush rearing their graceful heads among clusters of toi-tois.
The room was crowded with a happy-looking throng, who were chatting away to one
another without any reserve, crossing the room to shake hands with a neighbour
who lived too far away to see but on rare occasions. Strong, stalwart,
sun-browned farmers were leaning against the walls, or standing about in little
groups talking about the crops. Their wives were comparing babies, and the price
their butter brought. Young men and maidens were looking an happy as it was
possible for them to look when not wearing their working clothes. Most of the
ladies — performers and all — wore their riding-habits. The silver head of the
doctor from Geraldine was visible among many shaggy heads. Stationholders were
there from Peel Forest ; the schoolmaster and many others from Waihi ; from
five, ten, fifteen, twenty miles round everyone had come who could come. The
hard-working minister of a scattered flock was there, with his tired, patient,
face, taking this opportunity of inquiring of many a mother about her little
ones, who for the most part were also present. A couple of Maoris were squatting
in a corner, their broad brown faces shining with delight as they scrutinised
and criticised the costumes of the European ladies— themselves decked out, after
their usual style, in the gayest and brightest coloured garments it was their
good fortune to have begged for the occasion. The policeman sat on the edge of
the stage, his long legs dangling down, smiling upon a people he had never "run
in." He sang a good song, too, before the evening was over, calling upon the
audience to join in the chorus, which the audience was delighted to do with all
its lungs. The performers did not come on the stage in the town style, dressed
in elaborate costumes, with a bouquet and a roll of music, in the order of the
printed programme. There were no programmes. Most of the ladies who sang were in
their habits, and smilingly complied at the request of the Valley schoolmaster,
who had worked and was working hard to make it a success There was some good
music, too, although the musicians did not glory in a long Italian name. The
surveyors had come down from the mountains to spend Christmas, and one of them
sang comic songs with such an irresistibly comic face that the house was in
roars of laughter before he uttered a note. Indeed, as Grannie declared, wiping
away tears of laughter from her face at the end of his first song, " I have been
to a good many concerts in a good many cities, but I never heard better comic
singing than in this valley of the mountains." " I bet Winifred is in for it
before the evening is over," said Mr Grant laughingly. "Those who heard her sing
on Christmas Eve will not let her off." And so it proved. After a whispered talk
between one of their late guests and the master of the ceremonies, they crossed
to her and begged her to indulge the audience so far. Ever ready to oblige, she
blushingly complied. The doctor's daughters presided at the piano, and thanked
her with a smile as she stepped upon the stage. Then her soul-thrilling voice
uprose in the stirring, pathetic strains of "The Last Rose of Summer."
a dead silence and wet eyes for a moment as the last notes died away — then
thundering applause and deafening encores. She bowed, but these people wanted to
hear her grand contralto again, and cried "Another song ! " and so she sang
again— then with red cheeks was led back to her seat. When the concert was over
at least forty were invited by the schoolmaster to supper at his house, so that
it was near midnight when our friends left the Valley. Even then the festivities
of the evening were not over, for dancing was but just begun in the schoolroom.
The moon had long since risen, and the drive home was glorious. When they reach
the Waihi township —
Still In the night. The sound of feet
Has d'ed away from the empty street ;
The dark town
Sleeps with a slumber deep and sweet.
There had been a delay in calling for the horses left at the farm. Here Winifred, Mollie, Bertie, and Tom Grant had remounted, and cantered on far ahead of the buggy. Short is the empire of the night these midsummer days, and before the tired plea- Bure seekers retire to rest the east becomes dappled with the first faint gleam of dawn. Mary was soon fast asleep, but Winifred stood at their chamber window watching the widening glow spreading and spreading. The early awakening birds began to twitter in the trees, and as the misty mountain tops brightened with the dawn, the bellbirds sang their rare and sweet peel from the shrill treble down to " Big Ben ".
The rills that on the pebbles play'd
Might now be heard at will ;
This world the only music made,
Else everything was still.
Soon the sun would be up, and stream, and meadow, and forest, glittering beneath his rays, and the busy mower at work in the field. The days passed on swiftly, and as it drew near the time for Bertie and Mr Grant to return to their desks, Winifred, who was now most anxious that Mary should have medical aid, pleaded to be excused, and allowed to return with her girl friend to town. This was a signal for a general cry of " Home." Mrs Grant was sure pa had had enough of bachelorhood, and was certain the house wanted "looking after." Even the boys thought it would be nice to begin their school studies with a new term. Grannie and Mollie, too, voted that four months in the country was long enough at a stretch. So busy hands were soon at work to leave the Clintons' house in the order it was found, and then there was a general packing and cording, and ticketing of trunks "Christchurch."
...he train steamed off from the Orari station she leaned back in her seat with a sigh of satisfaction. It was about 8 in the evening when Christchurch was reached. The twinkling lights of the station, the cries of the newsboys, the rattle of cabs— all were welcome to Mary's ears and eyes. Mrs Grant and Grannie both pressed the girls to spend that night with them, but Mary looked so pleadingly at Winifred that she declined. As they drove through the lighted streets Mary looked delightedly through the cab windows. The gas lamps were prettier in her eyes than the sunlight on the grain, and the display of fruit in the fruiterers' windows more delightful to witness than the ripe apples and pears in Mr Clinton's orchard. Every tall, youthful figure that resembled in the slightest degree, in form or gait, that of Charles Mason she gazed after till lost from view. The Cathedral bells were chiming as they passed, and their every note was a familiar household voice to the girl, and when at length the cab turned from the lighted streets of the town, and rumbled along in the deep twilight beside the Avon flowing quietly and darkly between the drooping willows, her heart gave a bound of joy...
..Leaving Laurel Cottage, he turned his footsteps to the house containing his love. He did not intend to disturb them ; it was now close on 10 o'clock, and both Grannie and Mollie he knew were tired out with the long day of travelling. How jolly it was, he told himself, to see the light in the cottage window again. He leaned over the gate and watched it, and thought how hard he would try both to win and deserve Mollies love. While he ruminated the light flickered and went out. Breathing a fond good-night he sauntered away, and with no definite object in view, preoccupied in thought, he found himself at last some considerable distance from home before the old college buildings, Christchurch West. In the broad moonlight the quaint Gothic structure made a pretty picture among the fine old trees that surrounded it, and he walked leisurely along under the avenue of oaks, past the new colleges, on the opposite side of the way, until he reached the hospital bridge, over which he leaned for a moment looking at the| twinkling lights in the hospital windows, thinking of the sufferers within the walls of the picturesque edifice. Upon the river bank as he stood the clock in the old college tower chimed out 11 and the other tower clocks musically joined in. "A hint it is time to turn in," said Bertie ; and with a quicker step turned east along the river, following its course past St. Michael's Church...
Horses on a run was a sign of progress.
Ashburton Guardian, 7 June 1918, Page 4
Referring to New Zealand - ferns at a meeting of the. Canterbury Microscopical Society last night, Mr W. Martin said that the Dominion possessed 200 distinct species, including umbrella ferns, tree ferns, kidney ferns, maidenhair ferns, bracken ferns, and moonworts. The presence of four genera of tree ferns in the Dominion was evidence that it once had a tropical climate. The largest tree fern in New- Zealand was the black one, the commonest the Dicksonia. The silver tree fern, which had its southernmost limit at Banks Peninsula, had a conspicuous white under-surface to its fronds. The Maoris sometimes, when going out to meet hostile tribes, broke off the white fronds' and left thorn on the track as guides. Some of the bracken ferns were very beautiful, and a certain New Zealand climbing fern might have a stem 100 ft long.