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A Romance of Lake Wakatipu

Chapter VII

page 27

Chapter VII.

A Typical Goldfields Teamster—Camping out—Stalactite Caves—The Natural Bridge—Kawarau and Clutha Junction—Eighty-seven Pounds Weight of Gold.

As the night's encampment at the mouth of the Roaring Meg wore on, Bob's fund of anecdote increased.

In further illustration of the timber question,* he went on to relate how that, on another occasion, an old squatter in the neighbourhood named Captain Fraser69 had caused Bob and his mates some offence. In revenge, the Captain's fencing furnished their fires for the night.

Fraser, being a bit of a character, wakened Bob's recollections to other of his peculiarities. Fraser was particularly well pleased with himself and his name. His boast was that he was Duniewassal,70 or first gentleman of the clan, and that there had never been a Fraser who was other than a perfect gentleman.

Getting to the ears of a band of shearers, en route to his shed, they determined upon taking a rise out of this weakness. One of the number was a crossbred between a Malay and an Australian aboriginal—a most villainous specimen. The band made their arrangements accordingly.

Arriving at the home station, Fraser, who was on the lookout, called them to get their names registered in the station-book. Addressing the first, he inquired his name. "Fraser," was the man's curt reply. The inquiry was repeated to numbers two, three, four, &c., the answer being invariably the same. At last the captain, in a boiling mood, got to the half-breed, and, after surveying him from head to foot, inquired what his name might be. With unabashed effrontery, the darkie replied, like the others, "Fraser" This was too much for the old gentleman's equanimity, and, losing control of his temper and his dignity, he exclaimed, "D—n that for a yarn. Surely

* See Appendix, Note 10.

page 28it's enough to have the Frasers polluted with that rascality there, without taking a nigger into the clan. Clear out, the whole d—d lot of you. You are nothing but a hand of impostors." At this they shouldered their swags,71 and, setting up a loud laugh, took their departure as ordered.

In that way the evening was spent; and at a late hour the lawyer and Bob retired to their blankets under the tilt of the dray.

Towards morning the lawyer felt cold, and he was not at all sorry when daybreak afforded him the opportunity for getting up.

Following Bob's example, he made his morning's ablutions in the creek, and, knowing that Bob would not be ready to start for some time, he hastened to pay a visit of inspection to the stalactite caves in the neighbourhood. Although narrow at the entrance, they were found capacious enough inside. From the roof hung an inverted forest of these congelated substances, twisted and turned into the most fantastic shapes and figures. Some of them had grown down almost to the floor, but for the most part they had only attained the size of well-developed icicles, with a few drops of pure water trickling down their sides. Acted upon by such straggling rays as managed to penetrate the cave, the effect was grand. These rays were reflected back in ten thousand gleams of rainbow colour.

Having still more leisure before the dray came up, the lawyer visited another curiosity—the Natural Bridge.*

The water at this place, being particularly turbulent, has scooped out for itself an underground passage, leaving the superincumbent ledge of rock overhanging the channel to within a few feet of the opposite bank. Although not extending right across from bank to brae72, it enabled venturesome people with good vaulting-powers to get over. The lawyer, however, not being amongst the venturesome class, did not attempt the experiment. The dray coming up, the lawyer took his old quarters inside, with Bob on the front seat.

At midday they crossed the junction of the Kawarau and the Clutha73, two good large rivers, the one an outlet from Lakes Hawea and Wanaka,§ and the other from the Wakatipu. United

* See Appendix, Note 11. ‡ See Appendix, Note 13.

See Appendix, Note 12.

See Appendix, Note 13.

§ See Appendix, Note 14.

page 29they form the well-known Clutha,* as the Scottish settlers named it. Along the banks, miners on the hydraulic principle, with here and there a solitary cradle, were at work.

The river not having fallen to the low level at which Hartley and Riley were fortunate enough to find it, the work was mostly of a preliminary kind, and but little gold was being got. Still, the expectations were high; but, like many more great expectations, they were doomed to disappointment. Not only did the river continue high until the diggers, sad and weary, were driven away, but the débris from the Shotover and other higher workings sluiced down into the bed effectually disposed of all chance of the river ever becoming so low as it was on the memorable occasion alluded to. Now, however, the river dredge is doing what the miner of that day wanted to do in vain.

Well on in the afternoon Bob pointed out the position of a rock, from the ledges of which Hartley and Riley scraped the 87lb. weight of gold out of which the fame of the place arose. A slight gurgle was all that marked the rock, the water being now many feet above its surface. It was a wild spot, enough to damp the ardour of the most sanguine. Still, these two men persevered in their research, and they got their reward, which is a great deal more than can be told of many equally deserving who followed in their wake.

Darkness had fairly set in when the dray reached Clyde74, the township of the Dunstan, and here, over a parting glass of grog, the lawyer and Bob separated.

"Good-bye," said the lawyer, extending his hand to the Yankee; "but mind, Bob, don't again attempt to run the rapids on the Nevada side, for, if you do that sort of thing too often, folks will begin to doubt your veracity."

"You're right," said Bob. "Why, man, I never thought of my veracity before."

"That, Bob, I can well believe," replied the lawyer; "but you take my advice, and just let it have a chance."

"Aye, aye, sir," said Bob, cracking his whip cheerily as he drove away his team to their camping-place at the other end of the town.

* See Appendix, Note 15.

See Appendix, Note 16.

69 Could be a mean-spirited allusion to Thomas Fraser, a retired sea captain who entered the House of Representatives in 1860 and later joined the Legislative Council. Papers Past.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

70 A Highland gentleman, especially as cadet to a ranking family.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

71 A bundle containing one’s personal belongings or riches.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

72 A steep bank.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

73 Clutha River, the second longest river in New Zealand, running from Lake Wanaka to the Pacific Ocean.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

74 A township built on a bottleneck in the Clutha River.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]