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parrakeets, but now could find nothing to say, and there followed an interval of silence, broken only by the low laughter of waters and the incessant twitter of a little fantail, which was performing all sorts of gyrations immediately above our heads in pursuit of flies.

Having reduced his hair to something like subjection, and the comb to a toothless old age, Dick lazily detached himself from the fern-covered log, and moved away with a dilatory dawdle.

After going a few paces he stopped, and his head came swinging slowly round.

“ The next time ye're up my way with the gun-I seen a rabbit there last night-ye might pull up and have a look at her,” he said, still with the general suggestion of referring to a horse. “So long!”

The next second the dense undergrowth of trailing creepers and sweet tangle of odorous leaves parted to his arms like a curtain, and received him.

A few evenings later, being out with the gun, I turned my steps in the direction of Dick's hut. My way led me up the steep side of a denuded spur, gashed and scarred, and exuding ugliness from every hateful wound. After a stiff climb I reached the hut. I had lifted my hand to knock, when a woman's voice within burst into a torrent of abuse so fluent and so comprehensive that I turned to flee. Before I had gone a dozen paces I heard the door burst open and the same harsh voice call to me to stop. Submissively I turned, to find myself confronted by a tall dark brunette. Her face was Aushed, and her thin lips were drawn tightly over her big white teeth, which were slightly parted, as if to give vent to her panting breath.

“What d’you want here?” demanded she, in no very friendly tone.

I did not know what to do or to say-for it must have seemed as if I had been eavesdropping ; but somehow I managed to stammer, “Is Dick at home?”

“Oh, you're a friend of Dick's, are you?” she said, dropping her voice into a tone of irony. “Oh yes, he's at home! Walk in: he'll be glad to see you, I'm sure.”

I hesitated a moment, and then, in my confusion, yielded.

“ There's your friend,” she said, when we were within the hut, “and I hope you're proud of the beauty."

The word “beauty possesses a curiously convertible application, and it was in that sense she used it.

Dick was very drunk. He smiled inanely when he saw me, and then began to scan the floor with an expression of ludicrous solemnity intended to represent sobriety, but which, in reality, made him look remarkably like an idiot.

“Won't you sit down ? " said the woman, with mock cordiality.
I declined, in some alarm, and got away as fast as civility permitted.

The diggers were not long in finding a suitable appellation, according to their lights, for Dick's partner. Her fine figure, her handsome but unrefined facealthough they did not know that—and the flashy adornment of her person, were things remarked by them with secret awe and admiration, and won for her the distinguished title of the “Duchess.”

The doctor, an M.D. of London, who could not be said to be completely identified with temperance principles-a little failing which probably accounted for his presence on those ultimate shores—blabbed, in one of his weak moments, to Mrs. Sowerby that he had seen the Duchess in the bar of the American Theatre at Shortland with "five miles of blue silk on the ground and a black eye.”

Now, Mrs. Sowerby was a lady of spotless character and orthodoxy, possessed of certain rigid notions of her own, and, moreover, one of the pillars of the meeting

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house presided over by the Rev. Mr. Stevens. Numbered among her characteristic possessions was a prying nose, which fitted everybody's business with the adaptability of a skeleton key. Consequently, this nose of hers being laid to the trail, she followed it up with the assiduity of a sleuthhound. Having run down her prey, she held him at bay, and asked him if she might be favoured with a glance at the marriage lines. On that particular topic, however, Dick seemed reticent and shy; whereupon Mrs. Sowerby shook her head and puckered her mouth with great peculiarity of expression.

One evening, a few days after Dick's return, I had climbed, through a region of upturned earth and blackened stumps of trees, to the top of a spur, and had sat down to watch the sunset at a spot near to which the track from the Thames gold-field, after threading the gloomy solitude of the Bush for fourteen miles, emerged once more into the cheery light of day. Far beneath lay the dusky and indistinct waters of the Hauraki Gulf, while landward a wide prospect of precipitous spurs and deep gorges, densely wooded and terribly rough, spread away and upward until they culminated in the great central range of Cape Colville, crowned by a vast weather-beaten rock, which towered over the surrounding country like some feudal castle of old. The leaves of the great trees were glazed with wet, and the drenched scrub at their feet was redolent of the odours of sweet-smelling vegetable life. It had rained earlier in the day, but now the grey canopy was rolled up and lay in heavy brown-red folds upon the western horizon. The earth had swung round, and the bold mountain range had topped the sun, but a slanting ray still lingered on the face of the castle-like rock, sublimely contrasted by the wide expanse of forest beneath, already deepening into shadow. A soft blue veil of smoke, rising from many a rude chimney and camp fire, hung motionless over the diggings. Not a thing stirred. The day-birds had folded their wings and sunk into the depths of the Bush, and those that are wakeful through the night were not yet abroad.

I was about to retrace my steps-for the gloomy twilight was silently and swiftly closing over all—when I heard a footfall immediately behind me.

I turned, to look into a trustful pair of soft brown eyes set in a face singularly gentle and pleasing, albeit sallow and somewhat sorrowful as well.

The possessor was a weak-kneed boy of about twenty-as I guessed his age--whose lithe figure presented a delicacy of formation in every exterior point.

His supple little hands, brick-red from recent exposure, showed no mark of manual labour ; from which circumstance I inferred that he was an adventurous clerk stricken with gold fever.

For a moment or two he stood looking thoughtfully down upon the lights of the Creek, which were beginning to kindle here and there.

Scanning him closely, it flashed on me that I had seen his face before, and I set my brains pounding away at the question “Where?” I struck a match, ostensibly to light my pipe, truly that I might see the clearer. My gaze, in the better light, assured me that I was mistaken.

At last he spoke. “Is this Tinker's Creek ?” he said, in a childish tone of inquiry.

It was the voice now ! I wondered vaguely where I had heard it. But the fancy was fugitive and baffling, and my mind could lay no firm hold upon it. I supposed that I must have dreamt of such a face and such a voice at some time, and with that permitted the idea to fall away from me.

“Yes," I said, “this is Tinker's Creek.”

He remained for some time longer, staring before him with a pensive fixity of gaze. I noticed that his hob-nailed boots—palpably large for his feet-and his

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trousers, to the knee, were covered with viscid yellow clay. Evidently he had tramped from the Thames.

Touched by his wayworn appearance, I said, “Can I help you in any way ? "
The peremptory shake of his head amounted almost to a rebuff.

By that time the usual night sounds were beginning to make themselves heard. A more-pork hooted at intervals from the neighbouring scrub, a kaka, high in the air, grated out its discordant scream, and the plaintive whistle of a kiwi came down the wind, which meanwhile had risen, from somewhere higher up the spur. A blast swept sharply through the branches of the vague and towering trees in long drawn sighs and solemn mutterings-sounds which scemed to shape themselves into


words of awe of the coming night and the immeasurable mystery of the darkened Bush.

“Come ! ” cried I, “ let's be going. If you won't let me help you, I can at least save you from the nasty jar of suddenly finding yourself at the bottom of a shaft.”

“ Thank you,” he answered, somewhat stubbornly; “I think I shall remain here.”

“And roost up a tree, I suppose !” I said testily, for I was beginning to lose patience with him ; although, Heaven knows, his pitiable condition should have called forth sympathy rather than annoyance. "Are you coming ?"

His answer was powerfully conclusive—inasmuch as he made none.

Instead of pegging out a claim in some likely spot, and working at quartz-reefing, this strange being contented himself with panning off the wash-dirt in the beds of creeks, although they had been worked over so often that his labour could have brought him in nothing but the means of life. As a habitation, he pitched upon the deserted out-lying hut of a bushfeller—a tumbledown place, through the crannies of which the biting wind and the driving rain must have beaten upon him full often. An extraordinary peculiarity of his, in the eyes of the rougher diggers, was his aversion to drink, for none of those fiercer spirits could be brought, even by the wildest stretch of imagination, to suppose that life could be made bearable without the luxury of an occasional “spree.” “Not that I holds with what yer calls tipsymania,” said Raspberry-so called from the fruity appearance of his nose -“but a man as can't take a drink —” And, in default of words to express his contempt, the bibulous gentleman expectorated. Equally strange was the boy's antipathy to tobacco. “Pwhat's this at all ?” cried Larry MacGrotty, sucking at a black cutty with a stem so short that quite as much smoke went up his nose in at his mouth. “Yez doan't schmoke? Glory be to God, Oi do! Pwhat's that purty mouth av yez fur, annyhow, ye poor simpleton !” The point of a ribald story, too, the boy received with perfect immobility, never by look or sign betraying the slightest consciousness of its meaning. “I hate a fellow who can't see a joke,” complained the doctor, who had a prodigious fund of anecdote and liked his little efforts appreciated. “ Hang it all, he's as strait-laced as a girl! He’s like one, too. Happy thought! Let's call him ‘Rosalind.'”

The diggers, however, with a predilection for greater pertinency in specific designations-for upon them the Shakespearian allusion was entirely lost-quickly converted the meaningless “ Rosalind ” into “Rawy”—an appellative which clung to the boy thereafter.

Chaffed and petted alternately—the butt for a vulgar jest one minute, and the object of solicitude the next—the shy young lad was for a time the plaything of the Creek. Yet, for all the raillery of the diggers, the general sentiment was favourable to him ; for, apart from his amiability of character, his face possessed a charm of expression which had for all a positive fascination.

But in the general excitement and unrest of gold-digging the big children soon wearied of an amusement which somehow did not "pan out" quite so funny as it promised, and in a little while Rawy, as a source of amusement, was tossed aside like a worn-out toy.

Then, when the diggers had ceased to trouble their heads about him-had forgotten his existence almost-a ludicrous development, strangely inconsistent with his habitual stoicism, brought the lad again into prominent notice.

To explain this it is necessary to go back to the evening-or the second, I think it was--after his arrival.

Dick, standing at the door of his hut, saw the boy in the creek below panning off the "dirt," and, taking pity on his evident ignorance of the work, went down

to him, and was at some pains to initiate the novice in the art of deftly twisting the dish. “But," as the blond giant afterwards explained, “he's too small in the cannon-bone ever to earn his corn at that job.” In some effusion of rustic courtesy Dick asked Rawy to take supper with him-an invitation which, oddly enough perhaps, the retiring lad accepted.

From that time the strangely-assorted pair were much together, and Rawy frequently repeated his visit to Dick's hut.

“ Poor little beggar !” said the latter to me one day, “he must be as miserable as a motherless foal in that one-horse shanty of his. Besides, his tucker costs nothing, for he don't eat as much as a colt with the lampas. Come up and see if he do."

I went up, and was able conscientiously to corroborate this statement. His appetite was certainly not robust. One thing, however, I remarked, which seemed to have escaped the notice of his easy, indulgent host, and which surprised me not a little. Rawy's eyes constantly followed the Duchess, like the eyes of a picture, all round the hut. Moreover, when the time came to say “good-night,” there was a curious sort of animation about him, which seemed almost feverish, and he held her hand in his longer than perhaps the occasion required.

Soon a whisper was floating here and there that Dick was receiving a strange return for his hospitality. Before many days this whisper had grown into a voice so loud that all the Creek heard it. Perhaps it was due to that inscrutable mystery of the human heart which leads a gentle nature to seek its complement in its opposite; but, be that as it may, Rawy apparently had gone down before the brazen charms of the Duchess as a sapling before the bushfeller's axe.

I hasten to add, in justice to the woman, that so far as we could see his affection was not reciprocated. Indeed, his presence seemed alone sufficient to awaken her ill-humour.

For a time Dick treated the current gossip with luxurious unconcern; but the scandal so grew, under the careful tending of Mrs. Sowerby, that at length suspicion seemed to have eaten its way through even his listless apathy.

“If I catches that little beggar hanging round my shanty again," he declared one day, in a threatening voice, which sounded strange in the mouth of one usually so placable, "damn everything an inch high if I don't give him something that'll make him want turning out to grass for a twelvemonth !

Still, I repeat, on every occasion on which I saw them together I remarked that the Duchess flaunted the attentions of the boy with no slight acerbity.

Late one evening I set out from the mill for a moonlight ramble. The wide expanse of Bush, stretching away to the crown of the range, lay soft and clear in the silvery light. As I made my way up the spur-the mundic in the heaps of quartz on either hand glittering like scattered masses of diamonds—the perfume of the fragrant “tea-tree” seemed to fill the night with penetrating sweetness; the hoarse calling of the creek far below floated lazily upward, and the sea breeze, which was creeping in from the Gulf, and filling the air with invigorating freshness, blew pure upon my face. Save for the ceaseless thud of the stamper-heads at the battery, the night was very quiet.

Suddenly, at a spot where the track took a sharp bend to avoid the output of a drive, Rawy came dashing round the corner, and ran full tilt against me. His face was very white-I saw that distinctly, for it was almost light as day-one hand was pressed to his chest, and he was crying bitterly. So he continued to sob as long as I could hear him.

With the remembrance of Dick's threat in my mind I hurried on towards his hut.

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