Deconstructing The Luminaries: #2 the gold trail

panning for gold

Once again this post is for people who have already read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.

See also

Those who have not yet read the novel, see

In this post, I will examine what happened to the fortune in gold (£4000 or about $300,000 in today’s money).

pre 1865 – Crosbie Wells discovers gold while prospecting in the highland gold field of Dunstan and stashes it, without smelting it or going through the mandatory registration with a bank; he stashes it in his wife Lydia’s safe in Dunedin

Lydia and Francis Carver steal the gold dust/nuggets and Crosbie’s papers; Lydia sews the gold into the seams of 5 dresses; having established the practise of shipping of trunks of dresses to Melbourne to be fashionably altered in Lauderback’s name, they pack the 5 dresses with the gold in them in a trunk (since Lauderback was having an affair with Lydia, this seems reasonable)

May 12, 1865 – in Dunedin, Francis Carver, using the name Wells, hires Emory Staines to watch the trunk one afternoon (labelled with Lauderback’s name, it is due to be shipped on the Godspeed; at night Crosbie Wells flees for his life and is told about the trunk Carver is shipping in Lauderback’s name and diverts it from the Godspeed to the Titania; seriously wounded by Wells, Carver misses the departure of the Godspeed and does not know the trunk has gone missing;

June 14, 1865 – Carver takes over the Godspeed when it returns to port and sails it to Hokitika

June 18, 1865 – Hokitika – Staines tells Crosbie Wells about guarding a trunk for a man who used the name Wells; using Crosbie Wells’ birth certificate as identification, Carver places an ad in the paper to try to find the trunk;

July 28, 1865 – Hokitika – Anna buys a trunk full of dresses sold by the salvagers of the wreck of the Titania and begins to wear all but the orange one, while plying her new trade as prostitute;

pre Sept – Clinch, Anna’s landlord discovers the gold sewn into the dresses and assumes Anna knows about it; Anna thinks the weight is caused by lead inserts that are meant to hold the skirt down; when Clinch checks the dresses, he mistakes the lead Ah Quee has used to replace the gold for the gold itself and goes on assuming Anna knows about it;

Sept 20, 1865 – Ah Quee who has discovered the gold sewn into Anna’s dresses, removes the last of it while she lies in a drugged stupor; he smelts all the gold and stamps it with the name of the mine he is indentured at, ‘Aurora’; he hands it over  to the mine’s owner Staines: Staines ‘steals’ it, thus not registering the find or paying half of it to his partner Carver or Ah Quee, his stipend; Staines buries the fortune on Maori land;

Oct 11, 1865 – Anna tells Crosbie’s story to Staines; during an altercation with Carver, Anna suffers a blow that leads to the loss of her unborn child; she blames Carver and says it was his child; outraged and knowing the child was Wells’, Staines  asks Crosbie to draw up a deed of gift giving Anna half the buried fortune but passes out from drink before he signs it;

Having learned from Staines about his buried fortune and realizing it is actually his, Wells finds it buried on Maori land and takes it home where he hides it in his kitchen (the gold is now restored to its rightful owner but it is stamped Aurora so cannot be spent;

Jan 14, 1866 – wearing her orange dress Anna visits Staines and later takes opium, passes out on the road and is arrested for attempted suicide; Crosbie Wells dies from an overdose caused when Carver put opium in his drink; Carver finds the gold stash and attempts to burn the unsigned deed of gift; he then sends word to Lydia to come to claim it as Wells’ widow;

Jan 15, 1866 – Anna finds the gold in the orange dress and she and Gascoigne get her bailed out; they remove the gold and hide it under Gascoigne’s bed; Clinch buys Crosbie’s estate; Nillsen discovers the gold in Crosbie’s house; £400 is paid to Nillsen as finder and £30 to Frost, the banker who splurges it all away;

alerted by Balfour’s questions, Frost remember that Crosbie’s hoard was originally stamped Aurora – since resmelted – and tells Mannering that Crosbie had stolen it

Jan 17, 1866 – Clinch pressures Anna to pay him her rent, (he still thinks she has access to the gold in her dresses, but she can’t even get access to the gold under Gascoigne’s bed); as a result Anna falls back into Lydia’s grasp for Lydia has arrived to claim her husband’s fortune;

Feb 18, 1866 – Shepard, the gaol governor has blackmailed Nillsen into loaning him the £400 to get started on building the gaol before Lauderback can be elected and build roads instead; now this has  come out and Shepard publishes the idea that it was a gift from Nillsen;

Mar 20, 1866 – Anna forges Staines signature on the gift of deed that Devlin, the clegryman, has shown her; (he found the unburned document in Crosbie’s stove);

April 27, 1866 – Moody, defense lawyer, proves that Anna is illiterate and could not have forged Staines’ signature; the gold is awarded to Staines, but he ends up paying out half of it to Lydia, now Carver’s widow, as well as legal fees, money to buy Anna out of Mannering’s control, a bonus to Ah Quee and Frost’s £30, but Staines, ever the optimist doesn’t care. He gets nine months hard labour and Anna at the end of it.

Once again please leave a comment so I can correct errors or add omissions.







9 thoughts on “Deconstructing The Luminaries: #2 the gold trail

    • Re: July 28, 1865. Anna does wear the orange dress; it is the one that indicates she is working at whoring. She does not wear the Orange dress when she visits Ah Sook for opium, because she is not working then. This is why Ah Sook was able to remove the gold from all of the dresses except the orange one.

      • Can’t recall if it was Ah Sook or Ah Quee who removed the gold from the dresses and smelted it.

  1. Thanks so much for this – I finished the book but felt like I still needed clarification. This is perfect – I feel much better now!!

  2. Pingback: What I Once Knew: Anglo Saxon, Algebra and The Luminaries | 115 journals

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