Of the four young English ladies who were present at the spree, three were known to us as the daughters or sisters of settlers in the district. The fourth was a visitor from Auckland, who was staying with some friends in the district, and had come with them to the township. Miss "Cityswell" I will call her, the name will do as well as another.
Each one of us was to go in rotation and to lead out Miss Cityswell for a single dance; after that he would be free to devote himself to all and sundry. No one was to dance with any other until he had had his turn with the haughty Aucklander.
And we, standing in a body near the hall, heard the rippling laughter of the merry band, and saw their white muslin dresses and bright ribbons glancing among the trees. From within the lighted hall came the sound of fiddles and of stamping feet. We forgot all about Miss Cityswell; we left her to the care of Saint and Whangarei Jim; we forgot the terms of our compromise.
If she be matrimonially inclined and, to do them justice, our colonial ladies are not backward in that respect she has an infinite variety of choice among suitors eligible and ineligible. But on that head more anon. Every woman is a lady in the bush, and Miss Cityswell was, of course, no exception to the general rule.
On the other hand, it appeared that Miss Cityswell was inwardly somewhat frightened at the turn things had taken, and at the excitement every one was in.
"I see my way to square matters," he said, "but you must leave me to do it by myself." He then went down to the beach, where the Tanoa ladies were sitting in a group in the moonshine, waiting for the tide to turn before they embarked to return home. He sat down amidst them, and after some desultory chat, and flirtation perhaps, he brought the talk round to Miss Cityswell and her proceedings.
Miss Cityswell was naturally imbued with these notions. She regarded the Maoris who were present at the spree with sublime contempt and gathered skirts. During the early part of the evening, she confined herself to saying that she thought we took too much notice of our native neighbours.
Something like lèse majesté must be committed either way, that was apparent. To give up the chance of a dance with Miss Cityswell was to forego a rare and exquisite moment of ecstasy; and yet, to qualify ourselves for it, we were required to put an insult upon, and to neglect, our beautiful Rakope and her sisters. Whatever was to be done?
Dandy Jack, O'Gaygun, the Fiend, and another, in spite of their exuberant gallantry, declared themselves firmly for the belle of the Kaipara, versus her white and more sophisticated rival. Probably, these gentlemen were actuated by a sneaking expectation that Miss Cityswell would not be able to hold out against the advances of such magnificoes as themselves, all night.