Page:Through South Westland.djvu/207

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THE LAST STAGE.

119

whence it came—a shoulder of snow-capped mountain intervened—but the more we scanned it through the glasses the stranger it appeared. As we surmounted the next ridge above a sunny pool with shingly bottom, the streams were still all running west, but beyond the ridge, lo! they ran east, down to a wide valley where Ted told us the Fish river ran. The beech forest had finally conquered, and the hills rolled away, evenly furred with dark, monotonous green. A stake by the track marked the junction of Westland with Otago.

Alas, I viewed it with no feeling of exultation! It was only by the promise we should come again and complete that unfinished stage of the Main South Road that Transome roused me to any feeling of satisfaction. I let the others go on with the horses down the steep descent, preferring to walk. But the track was hot and dry, and the yellow clay along the sides, was cracked with heat. Under the beeches was but “a ragged penury of shade”; their little evergreen leaves looked so parched and leathery after the cool, damp forest, and I was glad to get down to the horses waiting at the ford.

Not thus had I walked down many a descent in Westland—where the great trees made a shadowy tunnel, and waters sprayed one from among the ferns. We cantered fast over stretches of grass by the river till we came to a real road. Then the hills fell back, and the forest gradually came to