Study Guide

The Luminaries Part 1, Chapter 9

By Eleanor Catton

Part 1, Chapter 9

True Node in Virgo (27 January 1866)

  • This chapter opens with some background on Quee Long, a digger of Chinese extraction, and a meeting he had had with Ah Sook, another digger (and an opium dealer) who was also originally from China.
  • Ah Sook had sought out Quee and soon launched into a story explaining why he was there.
  • Ah Sook explained that a couple of weeks ago, he had seen an old enemy in the street: Frank Carver (who was bartering with a Maori man).
  • Sook didn't get into the full details of his hatred for Frank with Quee, simply explaining that Carver was a murderer and Sook had vowed to kill him in revenge.
  • He didn't approach Carver at that moment; instead, he went after the Maori man, who turned out to be Te Rau Tauwhare. Te Rau explained that Carver had offered him money for information on Crosbie Wells many months ago, and now Te Rau had some—and had offered it to Carver for a price.
  • Sook didn't really care about any of this, so he thanked Te Rau and got on his way.
  • Heading back to Kaniere, he came across Anna. He was in a good mood, so he gave her a fresh half-ounce of opium resin as a present.
  • He then took Quee through how he came to hear about the crazy events that followed on that same day (January 14th), including Anna's suicide attempt (?), and his reaction to those goings-on.
  • Ah Sook had decided that Pritchard was responsible for selling Anna bad dope, so he went to Balfour (since he was the shipping agent who handled Pritchard's business) to complain.
  • Balfour had told Ah Sook that he didn't have anything to do with Pritchard's cargo and he should talk to his supplier—Frank Carver.
  • Naturally, Ah Sook was shocked to hear Carver's name. Balfour told him Carver had just left town again, likely for Canton.
  • Sook then went to go find Crosbie Wells to talk to him about Carver, but found that he was dead. He became convinced that Carver's rapid departure was somehow related to the death.
  • While Ah Sook was telling Quee this story, Mannering burst in with Frost in tow and started interrogating Quee about the Aurora gold. Between the language barrier and Mannering's abusive approach, however, it was hard for the men to communicate …
  • Ah Sook, who had a bit more English, tried to translate between Mannering and Quee, with moderate success.
  • Mannering ended up interrogating both men, with Frost trying to get him to be less jerky about it throughout.
  • Quee eventually explained how he got the gold from Anna's dress and smelted it so that the Aurora name was stamped on it. He was trying to kill two birds with one stone: he wanted to get revenge on Mannering and put some cash toward his debt to the mine (since he was an indentured servant). Quee was originally indentured to the Aurora, which was a duffer claim, through Mannering—making it basically impossible for him to earn his way out of his indenture. By smelting the gold and banking it for the Aurora, he was solving his financial/freedom problem and (he thought) sticking it to Mannering.
  • They also discussed Staines, though Sook and Quee didn't have much to tell Mannering on that front.
  • Then, Quee told Mannering that Staines hadn't actually banked the money for the Aurora, which means Quee was cheated out of his (stolen) money.
  • Then Mannering decides to get physical with Ah Sook to put pressure on Quee to cough up more information on Staines and his whereabouts.
  • In the middle of all this, Harald Nilssen showed up.
  • The visitors had realized they were all there for the same purpose, and then Frost suggested trying to pose the questions to Quee and Sook again, but this time in writing (using a book of Chinese phrases that Mannering kept in his pocket).
  • Before they even needed to use the book, however, Sook dropped a bomb. He said he knew a secret about Crosbie Wells: that he'd struck gold in Dunstan, on the Otago fields.
  • At this point, Moody interrupts the men's story in the present to ask some questions.
  • Then, we go back into the past.
  • The men questioned Ah Sook further about Wells's strike, and he said it happened two years ago and was worth many thousands.
  • Ah Sook and Quee continued to maintain that Quee had not known Crosbie Wells.
  • Then Sook dropped his final bombshell: when the men were trying to figure out who else was involved or behind this whole messy conspiracy to pilfer gold (which might have been a frame job on Quee, Nilssen suggested), Sook pointed the finger at Te Rau Tauwhare.

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