A First Year in Canterbury Settlement by Samuel Butler

This etext was produced from the 1914 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk A FIRST YEAR IN CANTERBURY SETTLEMENT by Samuel Butler INTRODUCTION By R. A. Streatfeild Since Butler’s death in 1902 his fame has spread so rapidly and the world of letters now takes so keen in interest in the man
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This etext was produced from the 1914 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk


by Samuel Butler

By R. A. Streatfeild

Since Butler’s death in 1902 his fame has spread so rapidly and the world of letters now takes so keen in interest in the man and his writings that no apology is necessary for the republication of even his least significant works. I had long desired to bring out a new edition of his earliest book A FIRST YEAR IN CANTERBURY SETTLEMENT, together with the other pieces that he wrote during his residence in New Zealand, and, that wish being now realised, I have added a supplementary group of pieces written during his undergraduate days at Cambridge, so that the present volume forms a tolerably complete record of Butler’s literary activity up to the days of EREWHON, the only omission of any importance being that of his pamphlet, published anonymously in 1865, THE EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST AS CONTAINED IN THE FOUR EVANGELISTS CRITICALLY EXAMINED. I have not reprinted this, because practically the whole of it was incorporated into THE FAIR HAVEN.

A FIRST YEAR IN CANTERBURY SETTLEMENT has long been out of print, and copies of the original edition are difficult to procure. Butler professed to think poorly of it. Writing in 1889 to his friend Alfred Marks, who had picked up a second-hand copy and felt some doubt as to its authorship, he said: “I am afraid the little book you have referred to was written by me. My people edited my letters home. I did not write freely to them, of course, because they were my people. If I was at all freer anywhere they cut it out before printing it; besides, I had not yet shed my Cambridge skin and its trail is everywhere, I am afraid, perceptible. I have never read the book myself. I dipped into a few pages when they sent it to me in New Zealand, but saw ‘prig’ written upon them so plainly that I read no more and never have and never mean to. I am told the book sells for 1 pound a copy in New Zealand; in fact, last autumn I know Sir Walter Buller gave that for a copy in England, so as a speculation it is worth 2s. 6d. or 3s. I stole a passage or two from it for EREWHON, meaning to let it go and never be reprinted during my lifetime.”

This must be taken with a grain of salt. It was Butler’s habit sometimes to entertain his friends and himself by speaking of his own works with studied disrespect, as when, with reference to his own DARWIN AND THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, which also is reprinted in this volume, he described philosophical dialogues as “the most offensive form, except poetry and books of travel into supposed unknown countries, that even literature can assume.” The circumstances which led to A FIRST YEAR being written have been fully described by Mr. Festing Jones in his sketch of Butler’s life prefixed to THE HUMOUR OF HOMER (Fifield, London, 1913, Kennerley, New York), and I will only briefly recapitulate them. Butler left England for New Zealand in September, 1859, remaining in the colony until 1864. A FIRST YEAR was published in 1863 in Butler’s name by his father, who contributed a short preface, stating that the book was compiled from his son’s journal and letters, with extracts from two papers contributed to THE EAGLE, the magazine of St. John’s College, Cambridge. These two papers had appeared in 1861 in the form of three articles entitled “Our Emigrant” and signed “Cellarius.” By comparing these articles with the book as published by Butler’s father it is possible to arrive at some conclusion as to the amount of editing to which Butler’s prose was submitted. Some passages in the articles do not appear in the book at all; others appear unaltered; others again have been slightly doctored, apparently with the object of robbing them of a certain youthful “cocksureness,” which probably grated upon the paternal nerves, but seems to me to create an atmosphere of an engaging freshness which I miss in the edited version. So much of the “Our Emigrant” articles is repeated in A FIRST YEAR almost if not quite verbatim that it did not seem worth while to reprint the articles in their entirety. I have, however, included in this collection one extract from the latter which was not incorporated into A FIRST YEAR, though it describes at greater length an incident referred to on p. 74. From this extract, which I have called “Crossing the Rangitata,” readers will be able to see for themselves how fresh and spirited Butler’s original descriptions of his adventures were, and will probably regret that he did not take the publication of A FIRST YEAR into his own hands, instead of allowing his father to have a hand in it.

With regard to the other pieces included in this volume {1} I have thought it best to prefix brief notes, when necessary, to each in turn explaining the circumstances in which they were written and, when it was possible, giving the date of composition.

In preparing the book for publication I have been materially helped by friends in both hemispheres. My thanks are specially due to Miss Colborne-Veel, of Christ-church, N.Z., for copying some of Butler’s early contributions to THE PRESS, and in particular for her kindness in allowing me to make use of her notes on “The English Cricketers”; to Mr. A. T. Bartholomew for his courtesy in allowing me to reprint his article on “Butler and the Simeonites,” which originally appeared in THE CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE of 1 March, 1913, and throws so interesting a light upon a certain passage in THE WAY OF ALL FLESH. The article is here reprinted by the kind permission of the editor and proprietor of THE CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE; to Mr. J. F. Harris for his generous assistance in tracing and copying several of Butler’s early contributions to THE EAGLE; to Mr. W. H. Triggs, the editor of THE PRESS, for allowing me to make use of much interesting matter relating to Butler that has appeared in the columns of that journal; and lastly to Mr. Henry Festing Jones, whose help and counsel have been as invaluable to me in preparing this volume for the Press as they have been in past years in the case of the other books by Butler that I have been privileged to edit.


[By the Rev. Thomas Butler]

The writer of the following pages, having resolved on emigrating to New Zealand, took his passage in the ill-fated ship Burmah, which never reached her destination, and is believed to have perished with all on board. His berth was chosen, and the passage-money paid, when important alterations were made in the arrangements of the vessel, in order to make room for some stock which was being sent out to the Canterbury Settlement.

The space left for the accommodation of the passengers being thus curtailed, and the comforts of the voyage seeming likely to be much diminished, the writer was most providentially induced to change his ship, and, a few weeks later, secured a berth in another vessel.

The work is compiled from the actual letters and journal of a young emigrant, with extracts from two papers contributed by him to the Eagle, a periodical issued by some of the members of St. John’s College, Cambridge, at which the writer took his degree. This variety in the sources from which the materials are put together must be the apology for some defects in their connection and coherence. It is hoped also that the circumstances of bodily fatigue and actual difficulty under which they were often written, will excuse many faults of style.

For whatever of presumption may appear in giving this little book to the public, the friends of the writer alone are answerable. It was at their wish only that he consented to its being printed. It is, however, submitted to the reader, in the hope that the unbiassed impressions of colonial life, as they fell freshly on a young mind, may not be wholly devoid of interest. Its value to his friends at home is not diminished by the fact that the MS., having been sent out to New Zealand for revision, was, on its return, lost in the Colombo, and was fished up from the Indian Ocean so nearly washed out as to have been with some difficulty deciphered.

It should be further stated, for the encouragement of those who think of following the example of the author, and emigrating to the same settlement, that his most recent letters indicate that he has no reason to regret the step that he has taken, and that the results of his undertaking have hitherto fully justified his expectations.

June 29, 1863


Embarkation at Gravesend–Arrest of Passenger–Tilbury Fort–Deal–Bay of Biscay Gale–Becalmed off Teneriffe–Fire in the Galley–Trade Winds- -Belt of Calms–Death on Board–Shark–Current–S. E. Trade Winds– Temperature–Birds–Southern Cross–Cyclone.

It is a windy, rainy day–cold withal; a little boat is putting off from the pier at Gravesend, and making for a ship that is lying moored in the middle of the river; therein are some half-dozen passengers and a lot of heterogeneous-looking luggage; among the passengers, and the owner of some of the most heterogeneous of the heterogeneous luggage, is myself. The ship is an emigrant ship, and I am one of the emigrants.

On having clambered over the ship’s side and found myself on deck, I was somewhat taken aback with the apparently inextricable confusion of everything on board; the slush upon the decks, the crying, the kissing, the mustering of the passengers, the stowing away of baggage still left upon the decks, the rain and the gloomy sky created a kind of half- amusing, half-distressing bewilderment, which I could plainly see to be participated in by most of the other landsmen on board. Honest country agriculturists and their wives were looking as though they wondered what it would end in; some were sitting on their boxes and making a show of reading tracts which were being presented to them by a serious-looking gentleman in a white tie; but all day long they had perused the first page only, at least I saw none turn over the second.

And so the afternoon wore on, wet, cold, and comfortless–no dinner served on account of the general confusion. The emigration commissioner was taking a final survey of the ship and shaking hands with this, that, and the other of the passengers. Fresh arrivals kept continually creating a little additional excitement–these were saloon passengers, who alone were permitted to join the ship at Gravesend. By and by a couple of policemen made their appearance and arrested one of the party, a London cabman, for debt. He had a large family, and a subscription was soon started to pay the sum he owed. Subsequently, a much larger subscription would have been made in order to have him taken away by anybody or anything.

Little by little the confusion subsided. The emigration commissioner left; at six we were at last allowed some victuals. Unpacking my books and arranging them in my cabin filled up the remainder of the evening, save the time devoted to a couple of meditative pipes. The emigrants went to bed, and when, at about ten o’clock, I went up for a little time upon the poop, I heard no sound save the clanging of the clocks from the various churches of Gravesend, the pattering of rain upon the decks, and the rushing of the river as it gurgled against the ship’s side.

Early next morning the cocks began to crow vociferously. We had about sixty couple of the oldest inhabitants of the hen-roost on board, which were intended for the consumption of the saloon passengers–a destiny which they have since fulfilled: young fowls die on shipboard, only old ones standing the weather about the line. Besides this, the pigs began grunting and the sheep gave vent to an occasional feeble bleat, the only expression of surprise or discontent which I heard them utter during the remainder of their existence, for now, alas! they are no more. I remember dreaming I was in a farmyard, and woke as soon as it was light. Rising immediately, I went on deck and found the morning calm and sulky- -no rain, but everything very wet and very grey. There was Tilbury Fort, so different from Stanfield’s dashing picture. There was Gravesend, which but a year before I had passed on my way to Antwerp with so little notion that I should ever leave it thus. Musing in this way, and taking a last look at the green fields of old England, soaking with rain, and comfortless though they then looked, I soon became aware that we had weighed anchor, and that a small steam-tug which had been getting her steam up for some little time had already begun to subtract a mite of the distance between ourselves and New Zealand. And so, early in the morning of Saturday, October 1, 1859, we started on our voyage.

The river widened out hour by hour. Soon our little steam-tug left us. A fair wind sprung up, and at two o’clock, or thereabouts, we found ourselves off Ramsgate. Here we anchored and waited till the tide, early next morning. This took us to Deal, off which we again remained a whole day. On Monday morning we weighed anchor, and since then we have had it on the forecastle, and trust we may have no further occasion for it until we arrive at New Zealand.

I will not waste time and space by describing the horrible sea-sickness of most of the passengers, a misery which I did not myself experience, nor yet will I prolong the narrative of our voyage down the Channel–it was short and eventless. The captain says there is more danger between Gravesend and the Start Point (where we lost sight of land) than all the way between there and New Zealand. Fogs are so frequent and collisions occur so often. Our own passage was free from adventure. In the Bay of Biscay the water assumed a blue hue of almost incredible depth; there, moreover, we had our first touch of a gale–not that it deserved to be called a gale in comparison with what we have since experienced, still we learnt what double-reefs meant. After this the wind fell very light, and continued so for a few days. On referring to my diary, I perceive that on the 10th of October we had only got as far south as the forty- first parallel of latitude, and late on that night a heavy squall coming up from the S.W. brought a foul wind with it. It soon freshened, and by two o’clock in the morning the noise of the flapping sails, as the men were reefing them, and of the wind roaring through the rigging, was deafening. All next day we lay hove to under a close-reefed main- topsail, which, being interpreted, means that the only sail set was the main-topsail, and that that was close reefed; moreover, that the ship was laid at right angles to the wind and the yards braced sharp up. Thus a ship drifts very slowly, and remains steadier than she would otherwise; she ships few or no seas, and, though she rolls a good deal, is much more easy and safe than when running at all near the wind. Next day we drifted due north, and on the third day, the fury of the gale having somewhat moderated, we resumed–not our course, but a course only four points off it. The next several days we were baffled by foul winds, jammed down on the coast of Portugal; and then we had another gale from the south, not such a one as the last, but still enough to drive us many miles out of our course; and then it fell calm, which was almost worse, for when the wind fell the sea rose, and we were tossed about in such a manner as would have forbidden even Morpheus himself to sleep. And so we crawled on till, on the morning of the 24th of October, by which time, if we had had anything like luck, we should have been close on the line, we found ourselves about thirty miles from the Peak of Teneriffe, becalmed. This was a long way out of our course, which lay three or four degrees to the westward at the very least; but the sight of the Peak was a great treat, almost compensating for past misfortunes. The Island of Teneriffe lies in latitude 28 degrees, longitude 16 degrees. It is about sixty miles long; towards the southern extremity the Peak towers upwards to a height of 12,300 feet, far above the other land of the island, though that too is very elevated and rugged. Our telescopes revealed serrated gullies upon the mountain sides, and showed us the fastnesses of the island in a manner that made us long to explore them. We deceived ourselves with the hope that some speculative fisherman might come out to us with oranges and grapes for sale. He would have realised a handsome sum if he had, but unfortunately none was aware of the advantages offered, and so we looked and longed in vain. The other islands were Palma, Gomera, and Ferro, all of them lofty, especially Palma–all of them beautiful. On the seaboard of Palma we could detect houses innumerable; it seemed to be very thickly inhabited and carefully cultivated. The calm continuing three days, we took stock of the islands pretty minutely, clear as they were, and rarely obscured even by a passing cloud; the weather was blazing hot, but beneath the awning it was very delicious; a calm, however, is a monotonous thing even when an island like Teneriffe is in view, and we soon tired both of it and of the gambols of the blackfish (a species of whale), and the operations on board an American vessel hard by.

On the evening of the third day a light air sprung up, and we watched the islands gradually retire into the distance. Next morning they were faint and shrunken, and by midday they were gone. The wind was the commencement of the north-east trades. On the next day (Thursday, October 27, lat. 27 degrees 40 minutes) the cook was boiling some fat in a large saucepan, when the bottom burnt through and the fat fell out over the fire, got lighted, and then ran about the whole galley, blazing and flaming as though it would set the place on fire, whereat an alarm of fire was raised, the effect of which was electrical: there was no real danger about the affair, for a fire is easily extinguishable on a ship when only above board; it is when it breaks out in the hold, is unperceived, gains strength, and finally bursts its prison, that it becomes a serious matter to extinguish it. This was quenched in five minutes, but the faces of the female steerage passengers were awful. I noticed about many a peculiar contraction and elevation of one eyebrow, which I had never seen before on the living human face, though often in pictures. I don’t mean to say that all the faces of all the saloon passengers were void of any emotion whatever.

The trades carried us down to latitude 9 degrees. They were but light while they lasted, and left us soon. There is no wind more agreeable than the N.E. trades. The sun keeps the air deliciously warm, the breeze deliciously fresh. The vessel sits bolt upright, steering a S.S.W. course, with the wind nearly aft: she glides along with scarcely any perceptible motion; sometimes, in the cabin, one would fancy one must be on dry land. The sky is of a greyish blue, and the sea silver grey, with a very slight haze round the horizon. The water is very smooth, even with a wind which would elsewhere raise a considerable sea. In latitude 19 degrees, longitude 25 degrees, we first fell in with flying fish. These are usually in flocks, and are seen in greatest abundance in the morning; they fly a great way and very well, not with the kind of jump which a fish takes when springing out of the water, but with a bona fide flight, sometimes close to the water, sometimes some feet above it. One flew on board, and measured roughly eighteen inches between the tips of its wings. On Saturday, November 5, the trades left us suddenly after a thunder-storm, which gave us an opportunity of seeing chain lightning, which I only remember to have seen once in England. As soon as the storm was over, we perceived that the wind was gone, and knew that we had entered that unhappy region of calms which extends over a belt of some five degrees rather to the north of the line.

We knew that the weather about the line was often calm, but had pictured to ourselves a gorgeous sun, golden sunsets, cloudless sky, and sea of the deepest blue. On the contrary, such weather is never known there, or only by mistake. It is a gloomy region. Sombre sky and sombre sea. Large cauliflower-headed masses of dazzling cumulus tower in front of a background of lavender-coloured satin. There are clouds of every shape and size. The sails idly flap as the sea rises and falls with a heavy regular but windless swell. Creaking yards and groaning rudder seem to lament that they cannot get on. The horizon is hard and black, save when blent softly into the sky upon one quarter or another by a rapidly approaching squall. A puff of wind–“Square the yards!”–the ship steers again; another–she moves slowly onward; it blows–she slips through the water; it blows hard–she runs very hard–she flies; a drop of rain–the wind lulls; three or four more of the size of half a crown- -it falls very light; it rains hard, and then the wind is dead–whereon the rain comes down in a torrent which those must see who would believe. The air is so highly charged with moisture that any damp thing remains damp and any dry thing dampens: the decks are always wet. Mould springs up anywhere, even on the very boots which one is wearing; the atmosphere is like that of a vapour bath, and the dense clouds seem to ward off the light, but not the heat, of the sun. The dreary monotony of such weather affects the spirits of all, and even the health of some. One poor girl who had long been consumptive, but who apparently had rallied much during the voyage, seemed to give way suddenly as soon as we had been a day in this belt of calms, and four days after, we lowered her over the ship’s side into the deep.

One day we had a little excitement in capturing a shark, whose triangular black fin had been veering about above water for some time at a little distance from the ship. I will not detail a process that has so often been described, but will content myself with saying that he did not die unavenged, inasmuch as he administered a series of cuffs and blows to anyone that was near him which would have done credit to a prize-fighter, and several of the men got severe handling or, I should rather say, “tailing” from him. He was accompanied by two beautifully striped pilot fish–the never-failing attendants of the shark.

One day during this calm we fell in with a current, when the aspect of the sea was completely changed. It resembled a furiously rushing river, and had the sound belonging to a strong stream, only much intensified; the waves, too, tossed up their heads perpendicularly into the air; whilst the empty flour-casks drifted ahead of us and to one side. It was impossible to look at the sea without noticing its very singular appearance. Soon a wind springing up raised the waves and obliterated the more manifest features of the current, but for two or three days afterwards we could perceive it more or less. There is always at this time of year a strong westerly set here. The wind was the commencement of the S.E. trades, and was welcomed by all with the greatest pleasure. In two days more we reached the line.

We crossed the line far too much to the west, in longitude 31 degrees 6 minutes, after a very long passage of nearly seven weeks, such as our captain says he never remembers to have made; fine winds, however, now began to favour us, and in another week we got out of the tropics, having had the sun vertically overhead, so as to have no shadow, on the preceding day. Strange to say, the weather was never at all oppressively hot after latitude 2 degrees north, or thereabouts. A fine wind, or indeed a light wind, at sea removes all unpleasant heat even of the hottest and most perpendicular sun. The only time that we suffered any inconvenience at all from heat was during the belt of calms; when the sun was vertically over our heads it felt no hotter than on an ordinary summer day. Immediately, however, upon leaving the tropics the cold increased sensibly, and in latitude 27 degrees 8 minutes I find that I was not warm once all day. Since then we have none of us ever been warm, save when taking exercise or in bed; when the thermometer was up at 50 degrees we thought it very high and called it warm. The reason of the much greater cold of the southern than of the northern hemisphere is that the former contains so much less land. I have not seen the thermometer below 42 degrees in my cabin, but am sure that outside it has often been very much lower. We almost all got chilblains, and wondered much what the winter of this hemisphere must be like if this was its summer: I believe, however, that as soon as we get off the coast of Australia, which I hope we may do in a couple of days, we shall feel a very sensible rise in the thermometer at once. Had we known what was coming, we should have prepared better against it, but we were most of us under the impression that it would be warm summer weather all the way. No doubt we felt it more than we should otherwise on account of our having so lately crossed the line.

The great feature of the southern seas is the multitude of birds which inhabit it. Huge albatrosses, molimorks (a smaller albatross), Cape hens, Cape pigeons, parsons, boobies, whale birds, mutton birds, and many more, wheel continually about the ship’s stern, sometimes in dozens, sometimes in scores, always in considerable numbers. If a person takes two pieces of pork and ties them together, leaving perhaps a yard of string between the two pieces, and then throws them into the sea, one albatross will catch hold of one end, and another of the other, each bolts his own end and then tugs and fights with his rival till one or other has to disgorge his prize; we have not, however, succeeded in catching any, neither have we tried the above experiment ourselves. Albatrosses are not white; they are grey, or brown with a white streak down the back, and spreading a little into the wings. The under part of the bird is a bluish-white. They remain without moving the wing a longer time than any bird that I have ever seen, but some suppose that each individual feather is vibrated rapidly, though in very small space, without any motion being imparted to the main pinions of the wing. I am informed that there is a strong muscle attached to each of the large plumes in their wings. It certainly is strange how so large a bird should be able to travel so far and so fast without any motion of the wing. Albatrosses are often entirely brown, but farther south, and when old, I am told, they become sometimes quite white. The stars of the southern hemisphere are lauded by some: I cannot see that they surpass or equal those of the northern. Some, of course, are the same. The southern cross is a very great delusion. It isn’t a cross. It is a kite, a kite upside down, an irregular kite upside down, with only three respectable stars and one very poor and very much out of place. Near it, however, is a truly mysterious and interesting object called the coal sack: it is a black patch in the sky distinctly darker than all the rest of the heavens. No star shines through it. The proper name for it is the black Magellan cloud.

We reached the Cape, passing about six degrees south of it, in twenty- five days after crossing the line, a very fair passage; and since the Cape we have done well until a week ago, when, after a series of very fine runs, and during as fair a breeze as one would wish to see, we were some of us astonished to see the captain giving orders to reef topsails. The royals were stowed, so were the top-gallant-sails, topsails close reefed, mainsail reefed, and just at 10.45 p.m., as I was going to bed, I heard the captain give the order to take a reef in the foresail and furl the mainsail; but before I was in bed a quarter of an hour afterwards, a blast of wind came up like a wall, and all night it blew a regular hurricane. The glass, which had dropped very fast all day, and fallen lower than the captain had ever seen it in the southern hemisphere, had given him warning what was coming, and he had prepared for it. That night we ran away before the wind to the north, next day we lay hove-to till evening, and two days afterwards the gale was repeated, but with still greater violence. The captain was all ready for it, and a ship, if she is a good sea-boat, may laugh at any winds or any waves provided she be prepared. The danger is when a ship has got all sail set and one of these bursts of wind is shot out at her; then her masts go overboard in no time. Sailors generally estimate a gale of wind by the amount of damage it does, if they don’t lose a mast or get their bulwarks washed away, or at any rate carry away a few sails, they don’t call it a gale, but a stiff breeze; if, however, they are caught even by comparatively a very inferior squall, and lose something, they call it a gale.

The captain assured us that the sea never assumes a much grander or more imposing aspect than that which it wore on this occasion. He called me to look at it between two and three in the morning when it was at its worst; it was certainly very grand, and made a tremendous noise, and the wind would scarcely let one stand, and made such a roaring in the rigging as I never heard, but there was not that terrific appearance that I had expected. It didn’t suggest any ideas to one’s mind about the possibility of anything happening to one. It was excessively unpleasant to be rolled hither and thither, and I never felt the force of gravity such a nuisance before; one’s soup at dinner would face one at an angle of 45 degrees with the horizon, it would look as though immovable on a steep inclined plane, and it required the nicest handling to keep the plane truly horizontal. So with one’s tea, which would alternately rush forward to be drunk and fly as though one were a Tantalus; so with all one’s goods, which would be seized with the most erratic propensities. Still we were unable to imagine ourselves in any danger, save that one flaxen-headed youth of two-and-twenty kept waking up his companion for the purpose of saying to him at intervals during the night, “I say, isn’t it awful?” till finally silenced him with a boot. While on the subject of storms I may add, that a captain, if at all a scientific man, can tell whether he is in a cyclone (as we were) or not, and if he is in a cyclone he can tell in what part of it he is, and how he must steer so as to get out of it. A cyclone is a storm that moves in a circle round a calm of greater or less diameter; the calm moves forward in the centre of the rotatory storm at the rate of from one or two to thirty miles an hour. A large cyclone 500 miles in diameter, rushing furiously round its centre, will still advance in a right line, only very slowly indeed. A small one 50 or 60 miles across will progress more rapidly. One vessel sailed for five days at the rate of 12, 13, and 14 knots an hour round one of these cyclones before the wind all the time, yet in the five days she had made only 187 miles in a straight line. I tell this tale as it was told to me, but have not studied the subjects myself. Whatever saloon passengers may think about a gale of wind, I am sure that the poor sailors who have to go aloft in it and reef topsails cannot welcome it with any pleasure.


Life on Board–Calm–Boat Lowered–Snares and Traps–Land–Driven off coast–Enter Port Lyttelton–Requisites for a Sea Voyage–Spirit of Adventure aroused.

Before continuing the narrative of my voyage, I must turn to other topics and give you some account of my life on board. My time has passed very pleasantly: I have read a good deal; I have nearly finished Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, am studying Liebig’s Agricultural Chemistry, and learning the concertina on the instrument of one of my fellow-passengers. Besides this, I have had the getting up and management of our choir. We practise three or four times a week; we chant the Venite, Glorias, and Te Deums, and sing one hymn. I have two basses, two tenors, one alto, and lots of girls, and the singing certainly is better than you would hear in nine country places out of ten. I have been glad by this means to form the acquaintance of many of the poorer passengers. My health has been very good all the voyage: I have not had a day’s sea-sickness. The provisions are not very first- rate, and the day after to-morrow, being Christmas Day, we shall sigh for the roast beef of Old England, as our dinner will be somewhat of the meagrest. Never mind! On the whole I cannot see reason to find any great fault. We have a good ship, a good captain, and victuals sufficient in quantity. Everyone but myself abuses the owners like pick pockets, but I rather fancy that some of them will find themselves worse off in New Zealand. When I come back, if I live to do so (and I sometimes amass a wonderful fortune in a very short time, and come back fabulously rich, and do all sorts of things), I think I shall try the overland route. Almost every evening four of us have a very pleasant rubber, which never gets stale. So you will have gathered that, though very anxious to get to our journey’s end, which, with luck, we hope to do in about three weeks’ time, still the voyage has not proved at all the unbearable thing that some of us imagined it would have been. One great amusement I have forgotten to mention–that is, shuffle-board, a game which consists in sending some round wooden platters along the deck into squares chalked and numbered from one to ten. This game will really keep one quite hot in the coldest weather if played with spirit.

During the month that has elapsed since writing the last sentence, we have had strong gales and long, tedious calms. On one of these occasions the captain lowered a boat, and a lot of us scrambled over the ship’s side and got in, taking it in turns to row. The first thing that surprised us was the very much warmer temperature of the sea-level than that on deck. The change was astonishing. I have suffered from a severe cold ever since my return to the ship. On deck it was cold, thermometer 46 degrees; on the sea-level it was deliciously warm. The next thing that surprised us was the way in which the ship was pitching, though it appeared a dead calm. Up she rose and down she fell upon a great hummocky swell which came lazily up from the S.W., making our horizon from the boat all uneven. On deck we had thought it a very slight swell; in the boat we perceived what a heavy, humpy, ungainly heap of waters kept rising and sinking all round us, sometimes blocking out the whole ship, save the top of the main royal, in the strangest way in the world. We pulled round the ship, thinking we had never in our lives seen anything so beautiful as she then looked in the sunny morning, when suddenly we saw a large ripple in the waters not far off. At first the captain imagined it to have been caused by a whale, and was rather alarmed, but by and by it turned out to be nothing but a shoal of fish. Then we made for a large piece of seaweed which we had seen some way astern. It extended some ten feet deep, and was a huge, tangled, loose, floating mass; among it nestled little fishes innumerable, and as we looked down amid its intricate branches through the sun-lit azure of the water, the effect was beautiful. This mass we attached to the boat, and with great labour and long time succeeded in getting it up to the ship, the little fishes following behind the seaweed. It was impossible to lift it on board, so we fastened it to the ship’s side and came in to luncheon. After lunch some ropes were arranged to hoist the ladies in a chair over the ship’s side and lower them into the boat–a process which created much merriment. Into the boat we put half a dozen of champagne- -a sight which gave courage to one or two to brave the descent who had not previously ventured on such a feat. Then the ladies were pulled round the ship, and, when about a mile ahead of her, we drank the champagne and had a regular jollification. Returning to show them the seaweed, the little fishes looked so good that someone thought of a certain net wherewith the doctor catches ocean insects, porpytas, clios, spinulas, etc. With this we caught in half an hour amid much screaming, laughter, and unspeakable excitement, no less than 250 of them. They were about five inches long–funny little blue fishes with wholesome- looking scales. We ate them next day, and they were excellent. Some expected that we should have swollen or suffered some bad effects, but no evil happened to us: not but what these deep-sea fishes are frequently poisonous, but I believe that scaly fishes are always harmless. We returned by half-past three, after a most enjoyable day; but, as proof of the heat being much greater in the boat, I may mention that one of the party lost the skin from his face and arms, and that we were all much sunburnt even in so short a time; yet one man who bathed that day said he had never felt such cold water in his life.

We are now (January 21) in great hopes of sighting land in three or four days, and are really beginning to feel near the end of our voyage: not that I can realise this to myself; it seems as though I had always been on board the ship, and was always going to be, and as if all my past life had not been mine, but had belonged to somebody else, or as though someone had taken mine and left me his by mistake. I expect, however, that when the land actually comes in sight we shall have little difficulty in realising the fact that the voyage has come to a close. The weather has been much warmer since we have been off the coast of Australia, even though Australia is some 100 north of our present position. I have not, however, yet seen the thermometer higher than since we passed the Cape. Now we are due south of the south point of Van Diemen’s Land, and consequently nearer land than we have been for some time. We are making for the Snares, two high islets about sixty miles south of Stewart’s Island, the southernmost of the New Zealand group. We sail immediately to the north of them, and then turn up suddenly. The route we have to take passes between the Snares and the Traps–two rather ominous-sounding names, but I believe more terrible in name than in any other particular.

January 22.–Yesterday at midday I was sitting writing in my cabin, when I heard the joyful cry of “Land!” and, rushing on deck, saw the swelling and beautiful outline of the high land in Stewart’s Island. We had passed close by the Snares in the morning, but the weather was too thick for us to see them, though the birds flocked therefrom in myriads. We then passed between the Traps, which the captain saw distinctly, one on each side of him, from the main topgallant yard. Land continued in sight till sunset, but since then it has disappeared. To-day (Sunday) we are speeding up the coast; the anchors are ready, and to-morrow by early daylight we trust to drop them in the harbour of Lyttelton. We have reason, from certain newspapers, to believe that the mails leave on the 23rd of the month, in which case I shall have no time or means to add a single syllable.

January 26.–Alas for the vanity of human speculation! After writing the last paragraph the wind fell light, then sprung up foul, and so we were slowly driven to the E.N.E. On Monday night it blew hard, and we had close-reefed topsails. Tuesday morning at five it was lovely, and the reefs were all shaken out; a light air sprang up, and the ship, at 10 o’clock, had come up to her course, when suddenly, without the smallest warning, a gale came down upon us from the S.W. like a wall. The men were luckily very smart in taking in canvas, but at one time the captain thought he should have had to cut away the mizzenmast. We were reduced literally to bare poles, and lay-to under a piece of tarpaulin, six times doubled, and about two yards square, fastened up in the mizzen rigging. All day and night we lay thus, drifting to leeward at three knots an hour. In the twenty-four hours we had drifted sixty miles. Next day the wind moderated; but at 12 we found that we were eighty miles north of the peninsula and some 3 degrees east of it. So we set a little sail, and commenced forereaching slowly on our course. Little and little the wind died, and it soon fell dead calm. That evening (Wednesday), some twenty albatrosses being congregated like a flock of geese round the ship’s stern, we succeeded in catching some of them, the first we had caught on the voyage. We would have let them go again, but the sailors think them good eating, and begged them of us, at the same time prophesying two days’ foul wind for every albatross taken. It was then dead calm, but a light wind sprang up in the night, and on Thursday we sighted Banks Peninsula. Again the wind fell tantalisingly light, but we kept drawing slowly toward land. In the beautiful sunset sky, crimson and gold, blue, silver, and purple, exquisite and tranquillising, lay ridge behind ridge, outline behind outline, sunlight behind shadow, shadow behind sunlight, gully and serrated ravine. Hot puffs of wind kept coming from the land, and there were several fires burning. I got my arm-chair on deck, and smoked a quiet pipe with the intensest satisfaction. Little by little the night drew down, and then we rounded the headlands. Strangely did the waves sound breaking against the rocks of the harbour; strangely, too, looked the outlines of the mountains through the night. Presently we saw a light ahead from a ship: we drew slowly near, and as we passed you might have heard a pin drop. “What ship’s that?” said a strange voice.–The Roman Emperor, said the captain. “Are you all well?”–“All well.” Then the captain asked, “Has the Robert Small arrived?”–“No,” was the answer, “nor yet the Burmah.” {2} You may imagine what I felt. Then a rocket was sent up, and the pilot came on board. He gave us a roaring republican speech on the subject of India, China, etc. I rather admired him, especially as he faithfully promised to send us some fresh beefsteaks and potatoes for breakfast. A north-wester sprung up as soon as we had dropped anchor: had it commenced a little sooner we should have had to put out again to sea. That night I packed a knapsack to go on shore, but the wind blew so hard that no boat could put off till one o’clock in the day, at which hour I and one or two others landed, and, proceeding to the post office, were told there were no letters for us. I afterwards found mine had gone hundreds of miles away to a namesake–a cruel disappointment.

A few words concerning the precautions advisable for anyone who is about to take a long sea-voyage may perhaps be useful. First and foremost, unless provided with a companion whom he well knows and can trust, he must have a cabin to himself. There are many men with whom one can be on excellent terms when not compelled to be perpetually with them, but whom the propinquity of the same cabin would render simply intolerable. It would not even be particularly agreeable to be awakened during a hardly captured wink of sleep by the question “Is it not awful?” that, however, would be a minor inconvenience. No one, I am sure, will repent paying a few pounds more for a single cabin who has seen the inconvenience that others have suffered from having a drunken or disagreeable companion in so confined a space. It is not even like a large room. He should have books in plenty, both light and solid. A folding arm-chair is a great comfort, and a very cheap one. In the hot weather I found mine invaluable, and, in the bush, it will still come in usefully. He should have a little table and common chair: these are real luxuries, as all who have tried to write, or seen others attempt it, from a low arm-chair at a washing-stand will readily acknowledge.

A small disinfecting charcoal filter is very desirable. Ship’s water is often bad, and the ship’s filter may be old and defective. Mine has secured me and others during the voyage pure and sweet-tasting water, when we could not drink that supplied us by the ship. A bottle or two of raspberry vinegar will be found a luxury when near the line. By the aid of these means and appliances I have succeeded in making myself exceedingly comfortable. A small chest of drawers would have been preferable to a couple of boxes for my clothes, and I should recommend another to get one. A ten-pound note will suffice for all these things. The bunk should not be too wide: one rolls so in rough weather; of course it should not be athwartships, if avoidable. No one in his right mind will go second class if he can, by any hook or crook, raise money enough to go first.

On the whole, there are many advantageous results from a sea-voyage. One’s geography improves apace, and numberless incidents occur pregnant with interest to a landsman; moreover, there are sure to be many on board who have travelled far and wide, and one gains a great deal of information about all sorts of races and places. One effect is, perhaps, pernicious, but this will probably soon wear off on land. It awakens an adventurous spirit, and kindles a strong desire to visit almost every spot upon the face of the globe. The captain yarns about California and the China seas–the doctor about Valparaiso and the Andes–another raves about Hawaii and the islands of the Pacific–while a fourth will compare nothing with Japan.

The world begins to feel very small when one finds one can get half round it in three months; and one mentally determines to visit all these places before coming back again, not to mention a good many more.

I search my diary in vain to find some pretermitted adventure wherewith to give you a thrill, or, as good Mrs. B. calls it, “a feel”; but I can find none. The mail is going; I will write again by the next.


Aspect of Port Lyttelton–Ascent of Hill behind it–View–Christ Church- -Yankeeisms–Return to Port Lyttelton and Ship–Phormium Tenax–Visit to a Farm–Moa Bones.

January 27, 1860.–Oh, the heat! the clear transparent atmosphere, and the dust! How shall I describe everything–the little townlet, for I cannot call it town, nestling beneath the bare hills that we had been looking at so longingly all the morning–the scattered wooden boxes of houses, with ragged roods of scrubby ground between them–the tussocks of brown grass–the huge wide-leafed flax, with its now seedy stem, sometimes 15 or 16 feet high, luxuriant and tropical-looking–the healthy clear-complexioned men, shaggy-bearded, rowdy-hatted, and independent, pictures of rude health and strength–the stores, supplying all heterogeneous commodities–the mountains, rising right behind the harbour to a height of over a thousand feet–the varied outline of the harbour now smooth and sleeping. Ah me! pleasant sight and fresh to sea-stricken eyes. The hot air, too, was very welcome after our long chill.

We dined at the table d’hote at the Mitre–so foreign and yet so English–the windows open to the ground, looking upon the lovely harbour. Hither come more of the shaggy clear-complexioned men with the rowdy hats; looked at them with awe and befitting respect. Much grieved to find beer sixpence a glass. This was indeed serious, and was one of the first intimations which we received that we were in a land where money flies like wild-fire.

After dinner I and another commenced the ascent of the hill between port and Christ Church. We had not gone far before we put our knapsacks on the back of the pack-horse that goes over the hill every day (poor pack- horse!). It is indeed an awful pull up that hill; yet we were so anxious to see what was on the other side of it that we scarcely noticed the fatigue: I thought it very beautiful. It is volcanic, brown, and dry; large intervals of crumbling soil, and then a stiff, wiry, uncompromising-looking tussock of the very hardest grass; then perhaps a flax bush, or, as we should have said, a flax plant; then more crumbly, brown, dry soil, mixed with fine but dried grass, and then more tussocks; volcanic rock everywhere cropping out, sometimes red and tolerably soft, sometimes black and abominably hard. There was a great deal, too, of a very uncomfortable prickly shrub, which they call Irishman, and which I do not like the look of at all. There were cattle browsing where they could, but to my eyes it seemed as though they had but poor times of it. So we continued to climb, panting and broiling in the afternoon sun, and much admiring the lovely view beneath. At last we near the top, and look down upon the plain, bounded by the distant Apennines, that run through the middle of the island. Near at hand, at the foot of the hill, we saw a few pretty little box-like houses in trim, pretty little gardens, stacks of corn and fields, a little river with a craft or two lying near a wharf, whilst the nearer country was squared into many-coloured fields. But, after all, the view was rather of the “long stare” description. There was a great extent of country, but very few objects to attract the eye and make it rest any while in any given direction. The mountains wanted outlines; they were not broken up into fine forms like the Carnarvonshire mountains, but were rather a long, blue, lofty, even line, like the Jura from Geneva or the Berwyn from Shrewsbury. The plains, too, were lovely in colouring, but would have been wonderfully improved by an object or two a little nearer than the mountains. I must confess that the view, though undoubtedly fine, rather disappointed me. The one in the direction of the harbour was infinitely superior.

At the bottom of the hill we met the car to Christ Church; it halted some time at a little wooden public-house, and by and by at another, where was a Methodist preacher, who had just been reaping corn for two pounds an acre. He showed me some half-dozen stalks of gigantic size, but most of that along the roadside was thin and poor. Then we reached Christ Church on the little river Avon; it is larger than Lyttelton and more scattered, but not so pretty. Here, too, the men are shaggy, clear-complexioned, brown, and healthy-looking, and wear exceedingly rowdy hats. I put up at Mr. Rowland Davis’s; and as no one during the evening seemed much inclined to talk to me, I listened to the conversation.

The all-engrossing topics seemed to be sheep, horses, dogs, cattle, English grasses, paddocks, bush, and so forth. From about seven o’clock in the evening till about twelve at night I cannot say that I heard much else. These were the exact things I wanted to hear about, and I listened till they had been repeated so many times over that I almost grew tired of the subject, and wished the conversation would turn to something else. A few expressions were not familiar to me. When we should say in England “Certainly not,” it is here “No fear,” or “Don’t YOU believe it.” When they want to answer in the affirmative they say “It is SO,” “It does SO.” The word “hum,” too, without pronouncing the U, is in amusing requisition. I perceived that this stood either for assent, or doubt, or wonder, or a general expression of comprehension without compromising the hummer’s own opinion, and indeed for a great many more things than these; in fact, if a man did not want to say anything at all he said “hum hum.” It is a very good expression, and saves much trouble when its familiar use has been acquired. Beyond these trifles I noticed no Yankeeism, and the conversation was English in point of expression. I was rather startled at hearing one gentleman ask another whether he meant to wash this year, and receive the answer “No.” I soon discovered that a person’s sheep are himself. If his sheep are clean, he is clean. He does not wash his sheep before shearing, but he washes; and, most marvellous of all, it is not his sheep which lamb, but he “lambs down” himself.

* * *

I have purchased a horse, by name Doctor. I hope he is a homoeopathist. He is in colour bay, distinctly branded P. C. on the near shoulder. I am glad the brand is clear, for, as you well know, all horses are alike to me unless there is some violent distinction in their colour. This horse I bought from –, to whom Mr. FitzGerald kindly gave me a letter of introduction. I thought I could not do better than buy from a person of known character, seeing that my own ignorance is so very great upon the subject. I had to give 55 pounds, but, as horses are going, that does not seem much out of the way. He is a good river-horse, and very strong. A horse is an absolute necessity in this settlement; he is your carriage, your coach, and your railway train.

On Friday I went to Port Lyttelton, meeting on the way many of our late fellow-passengers–some despondent, some hopeful; one or two dinnerless and in the dumps when we first encountered them, but dinnered and hopeful when we met them again on our return. We chatted with and encouraged them all, pointing out the general healthy, well-conditioned look of the residents. Went on board. How strangely changed the ship appeared! Sunny, motionless, and quiet; no noisy children, no slatternly, slipshod women rolling about the decks, no slush, no washing of dirty linen in dirtier water. There was the old mate in a clean shirt at last, leaning against the mainmast, and smoking his yard of clay; the butcher close–shaven and clean; the sailors smart, and welcoming us with a smile. It almost looked like going home. Dined in Lyttelton with several of my fellow-passengers, who evidently thought it best to be off with the old love before they were on with the new, i.e. to spend all they brought with them before they set about acquiring a new fortune. Then went and helped Mr. and Mrs. R. to arrange their new house, i.e. R. and I scrubbed the floors of the two rooms they have taken with soap, scrubbing-brushes, flannel, and water, made them respectably clean, and removed his boxes into their proper places.

Saturday.–Rode again to port, and saw my case of saddlery still on board. When riding back the haze obscured the snowy range, and the scenery reminded me much of Cambridgeshire. The distinctive marks which characterise it as not English are the occasional Ti palms, which have a very tropical appearance, and the luxuriance of the Phormium tenax. If you strip a shred of this leaf not thicker than an ordinary piece of string, you will find it hard work to break it, if you succeed in doing so at all without cutting your finger. On the whole, if the road leading from Heathcote Ferry to Christ Church were through an avenue of mulberry trees, and the fields on either side were cultivated with Indian corn and vineyards, and if through these you could catch an occasional glimpse of a distant cathedral of pure white marble, you might well imagine yourself nearing Milan. As it is, the country is a sort of a cross between the plains of Lombardy and the fens of North Cambridgeshire.

At night, a lot of Nelson and Wellington men came to the club. I was amused at dinner by a certain sailor and others, who maintained that the end of the world was likely to arrive shortly; the principal argument appearing to be, that there was no more sheep country to be found in Canterbury. This fact is, I fear, only too true. With this single exception, the conversation was purely horsy and sheepy. The fact is, the races are approaching, and they are the grand annual jubilee of Canterbury.

Next morning, I rode some miles into the country, and visited a farm. Found the inmates (two brothers) at dinner. Cold boiled mutton and bread, and cold tea without milk, poured straight from a huge kettle in which it is made every morning, seem the staple commodities. No potatoes–nothing hot. They had no servant, and no cow. The bread, which was very white, was made by the younger. They showed me, with some little pleasure, some of the improvements they were making, and told me what they meant to do; and I looked at them with great respect. These men were as good gentlemen, in the conventional sense of the word, as any with whom we associate in England–I daresay, de facto, much better than many of them. They showed me some moa bones which they had ploughed up (the moa, as you doubtless know, was an enormous bird, which must have stood some fifteen feet high), also some stone Maori battle- axes. They bought this land two years ago, and assured me that, even though they had not touched it, they could get for it cent per cent upon the price which they then gave.


Sheep on Terms, Schedule and Explanation–Investment in Sheep-run–Risk of Disease, and Laws upon the Subject–Investment in laying down Land in English Grass–In Farming–Journey to Oxford–Journey to the Glaciers– Remote Settlers–Literature in the Bush–Blankets and Flies–Ascent of the Rakaia–Camping out–Glaciers–Minerals–Parrots–Unexplored Col– Burning the Flats–Return.

February 10, 1860.–I must confess to being fairly puzzled to know what to do with the money you have sent me. Everyone suggests different investments. One says buy sheep and put them out on terms. I will explain to you what this means. I can buy a thousand ewes for 1250 pounds; these I should place in the charge of a squatter whose run is not fully stocked (and indeed there is hardly a run in the province fully stocked). This person would take my sheep for either three, four, five, or more years, as we might arrange, and would allow me yearly 2s. 6d. per head in lieu of wool. This would give me 2s. 6d. as the yearly interest on 25s. Besides this he would allow me 40 per cent per annum of increase, half male, and half female, and of these the females would bear increase also as soon as they had attained the age of two years; moreover, the increase would return me 2s. 6d. per head wool money as soon as they became sheep. At the end of the term, my sheep would be returned to me as per agreement, with no deduction for deaths, but the original sheep would be, of course, so much the older, and some of them being doubtless dead, sheep of the same age as they would have been will be returned in their place.

I will subjoin a schedule showing what 500 ewes will amount to in seven years; we will date from January, 1860, and will suppose the yearly increase to be one-half male and one-half female.

Ewes Ewe Wether Ewe Wether Wethers Total Lambs Lambs Hoggets Hoggets
1 year old }
January, }
1860 } 500– — — — — 500 1861 500 100 100 — — — 700 1862 500 100 100 100 100 — 900 1863 600 120 120 100 100 100 1140 1864 700 140 140 120 120 200 1420 1865 820 164 164 140 140 320 1748 1866 960 192 192 164 164 460 2132 1867 1124 225 225 192 192 624 2582

The yearly wool money would be:-

Pounds s. d.
January, 1861 . . 2s. 6d. per head 62 10 0 1862 . . . . . . . . 87 10 0
1863 . . . . . . . . 112 10 0
1864 . . . . . . . . 142 10 0
1865 . . . . . . . . 177 10 0
1866 . . . . . . . . 218 10 0
1867 . . . . . . . . 266 10 0
Total wool money received . . . . 1067 10 0 Original capital expended . . . . 625 0 0

I will explain briefly the meaning of this.

We will suppose that the ewes have all two teeth to start with–two teeth indicate one year old, four teeth two years, six teeth three years, eight teeth (or full mouthed) four years. For the edification of some of my readers as ignorant as I am myself upon ovine matters, I may mention that the above teeth are to be looked for in the lower jaw and not the upper, the front portion of which is toothless. The ewes, then, being one year old to start with, they will be eight years old at the end of seven years. I have only, however, given you so long a term that you may see what would be the result of putting out sheep on terms either for three, four, five, six, or seven years, according as you like. Sheep at eight years old will be in their old age: they will live nine or ten years–sometimes more, but an eight-year-old sheep would be what is called a broken-mouthed creature; that is to say, it would have lost some of its teeth from old age, and would generally be found to crawl along at the tail end of the mob; so that of the 2582 sheep returned to me, 500 would be very old, 200 would be seven years old, 200 six years old. All these would pass as old sheep, and not fetch very much; one might get about 15s. a head for the lot all round. Perhaps, however, you might sell the 200 six years old with the younger ones. Not to overestimate, count these 700 old sheep as worth nothing at all, and consider that I have 1800 sheep in prime order, reckoning the lambs as sheep (a weaned lamb being worth nearly as much as a full- grown sheep). Suppose these sheep to have gone down in value from 25s. a head to 10s., and at the end of my term I realise 900 pounds. Suppose that of the wool money I have only spent 62 pounds 10s. per annum, i.e. ten per cent on the original outlay, and that I have laid by the remainder of the wool money. I shall have from the wool money a surplus of 630 pounds (some of which should have been making ten per cent interest for some time); that is to say, my total receipts for the sheep should be at the least 1530 pounds. Say that the capital had only doubled itself in the seven years, the investment could not be considered a bad one. The above is a bona-fide statement of one of the commonest methods of investing money in sheep. I cannot think from all I have heard that sheep will be lower than 10s. a head, still some place the minimum value as low as 6s. {3}

The question arises, What is to be done with one’s money when the term is out? I cannot answer; yet surely the colony cannot be quite used up in seven years, and one can hardly suppose but that, even in that advanced state of the settlement, means will not be found of investing a few thousand pounds to advantage.

The general recommendation which I receive is to buy the goodwill of a run; this cannot be done under about 100 pounds for every thousand acres. Thus, a run of 20,000 acres will be worth 2000 pounds. Still, if a man has sufficient capital to stock it well at once, it will pay him, even at this price. We will suppose the run to carry 10,000 sheep. The wool money from these should be 2500 pounds per annum. If a man can start with 2000 ewes, it will not be long before he finds himself worth 10,000 sheep. Then the sale of surplus stock which he has not country to feed should fetch him in fully 1000 pounds per annum; so that, allowing the country to cost 2000 pounds, and the sheep 2500 pounds, and allowing 1000 pounds for working, plant, buildings, dray, bullocks, and stores, and 500 pounds more for contingencies and expenses of the first two years, during which the run will not fully pay its own expenses–for a capital of 6000 pounds a man may in a few years find himself possessed of something like a net income of 2000 pounds per annum. Marvellous as all this sounds, I am assured that it is true. {4} On the other hand, there are risks. There is the uncertainty of what will be done in the year 1870, when the runs lapse to the Government. The general opinion appears to be, that they will be re-let, at a greatly advanced rent, to the present occupiers. The present rent of land is a farthing per acre for the first and second years, a halfpenny for the third, and three farthings for the fourth and every succeeding year. Most of the waste lands in the province are now paying three farthings per acre. There is the danger also of scab. This appears to depend a good deal upon the position of the run and its nature. Thus, a run situated in the plains over which sheep are being constantly driven from the province of Nelson, will be in more danger than one on the remoter regions of the back country. In Nelson there are few, if any, laws against carelessness in respect of scab. In Canterbury the laws are very stringent. Sheep have to be dipped three months before they quit Nelson, and inspected and re-dipped (in tobacco water and sulphur) on their entry into this province. Nevertheless, a single sheep may remain infected, even after this second dipping. The scab may not be apparent, but it may break out after having been a month or two in a latent state. One sheep will infect others, and the whole mob will soon become diseased; indeed, a mob is considered unsound, and compelled to be dipped, if even a single scabby sheep have joined it. Dipping is an expensive process, and if a man’s sheep trespass on to his neighbour’s run he has to dip his neighbour’s also. Moreover, scab may break out just before or in mid-winter, when it is almost impossible, on the plains, to get firewood sufficient to boil the water and tobacco (sheep must be dipped whilst the liquid is at a temperature of not less than 90 degrees), and when the severity of the sou’-westers renders it nearly certain that a good few sheep will be lost. Lambs, too, if there be lambs about, will be lost wholesale. If the sheep be not clean within six months after the information is laid, the sum required to be deposited with Government by the owner, on the laying of such information, is forfeited. This sum is heavy, though I do not exactly know its amount. One dipping would not be ruinous, but there is always a chance of some scabby sheep having been left upon the run unmustered, and the flock thus becoming infected afresh, so that the whole work may have to be done over again. I perceive a sort of shudder to run through a sheep farmer at the very name of this disease. There are no four letters in the alphabet which he appears so mortally to detest, and with good reason.

Another mode of investment highly spoken of is that of buying land and laying it down in English grass, thus making a permanent estate of it. But I fear this will not do for me, both because it requires a large experience of things in general, which, as you well know, I do not possess, and because I should want a greater capital than would be required to start a run. More money is sunk, and the returns do not appear to be so speedy. I cannot give you even a rough estimate of the expenses of such a plan. I will only say that I have seen gentlemen who are doing it, and who are confident of success, and these men bear the reputation of being shrewd and business-like. I cannot doubt, therefore, that it is both a good and safe investment of money. My crude notion concerning it is, that it is more permanent and less remunerative. In this I may be mistaken, but I am certain it is a thing which might very easily be made a mess of by an inexperienced person; whilst many men, who have known no more about sheep than I do, have made ordinary sheep farming pay exceedingly well. I may perhaps as well say, that land laid down in English grass is supposed to carry about five or six sheep to the acre; some say more and some less. Doubtless, somewhat will depend upon the nature of the soil, and as yet the experiment can hardly be said to have been fully tried. As for farming as we do in England, it is universally maintained that it does not pay; there seems to be no discrepancy of opinion about this. Many try it, but most men give it up. It appears as if it were only bona-fide labouring men who can make it answer. The number of farms in the neighbourhood of Christ Church seems at first to contradict this statement; but I believe the fact to be, that these farms are chiefly in the hands of labouring men, who had made a little money, bought land, and cultivated it themselves. These men can do well, but those who have to buy labour cannot make it answer. The difficulty lies in the high rate of wages.

February 13.–Since my last I have been paying a visit of a few days at Kaiapoi, and made a short trip up to the Harewood Forest, near to which the township of Oxford is situated. Why it should be called Oxford I do not know.

After leaving Rangiora, which is about 8 miles from Kaiapoi, I followed the Harewood road till it became a mere track, then a footpath, and then dwindled away to nothing at all. I soon found myself in the middle of the plains, with nothing but brown tussocks of grass before me and behind me, and on either side. The day was rather dark, and the mountains were obliterated by a haze. “Oh the pleasure of the plains,” I thought to myself; but, upon my word, I think old Handel would find but little pleasure in these. They are, in clear weather, monotonous and dazzling; in cloudy weather monotonous and sad; and they have little to recommend them but the facility they afford for travelling, and the grass which grows upon them. This, at least, was the impression I derived from my first acquaintance with them, as I found myself steering for the extremity of some low downs about six miles distant. I thought these downs would never get nearer. At length I saw a tent-like object, dotting itself upon the plain, with eight black mice as it were in front of it. This turned out to be a dray, loaded with wool, coming down from the country. It was the first symptom of sheep that I had come upon, for, to my surprise, I saw no sheep upon the plains, neither did I see any in the whole of my little excursion. I am told that this disappoints most new-comers. They are told that sheep farming is the great business of Canterbury, but they see no sheep; the reason of this is, partly because the runs are not yet a quarter stocked, and partly because the sheep are in mobs, and, unless one comes across the whole mob, one sees none of them. The plains, too, are so vast, that at a very short distance from the track, sheep will not be seen. When I came up to the dray, I found myself on a track, reached the foot of the downs, and crossed the little River Cust. A little river, brook or stream, is always called a creek; nothing but the great rivers are called rivers. Now clumps of flax, and stunted groves of Ti palms and other trees, began to break the monotony of the scene. Then the track ascended the downs on the other side of the stream, and afforded me a fine view of the valley of the Cust, cleared and burnt by a recent fire, which extended for miles and miles, purpling the face of the country, up to the horizon. Rich flax and grass made the valley look promising, but on the hill the ground was stony and barren, and shabbily clothed with patches of dry and brown grass, surrounded by a square foot or so of hard ground; between the tussocks, however, there was a frequent though scanty undergrowth which might furnish support for sheep, though it looked burnt up.

I may as well here correct an error, which I had been under, and which you may, perhaps, have shared with me–native grass cannot be mown.

After proceeding some few miles further, I came to a station, where, though a perfect stranger, and at first (at some little distance) mistaken for a Maori, I was most kindly treated, and spent a very agreeable evening. The people here are very hospitable; and I have received kindness already upon several occasions, from persons upon whom I had no sort of claim.

Next day I went to Oxford, which lies at the foot of the first ranges, and is supposed to be a promising place. Here, for the first time, I saw the bush; it was very beautiful; numerous creepers, and a luxuriant undergrowth among the trees, gave the forest a wholly un-European aspect, and realised, in some degree, one’s idea of tropical vegetation. It was full of birds that sang loudly and sweetly. The trees here are all evergreens, and are not considered very good for timber. I am told that they have mostly a twist in them, and are in other respects not first rate.

* * *

March 24.–At last I have been really in the extreme back country, and positively, right up to a glacier.

As soon as I saw the mountains, I longed to get on the other side of them, and now my wish has been gratified.

I left Christ Church in company with a sheep farmer, who owns a run in the back country, behind the Malvern Hills, and who kindly offered to take me with him on a short expedition he was going to make into the remoter valleys of the island, in hopes of finding some considerable piece of country which had not yet been applied for.

We started February 28th, and had rather an unpleasant ride of twenty- five miles, against a very high N.W. wind. This wind is very hot, very parching, and very violent; it blew the dust into our eyes so that we could hardly keep them open. Towards evening, however, it somewhat moderated, as it generally does. There was nothing of interest on the track, save a dry river-bed, through which the Waimakiriri once flowed, but which it has long quitted. The rest of our journey was entirely over the plains, which do not become less monotonous upon a longer acquaintance; the mountains, however, drew slowly nearer, and by evening were really rather beautiful. Next day we entered the valley of the River Selwyn, or Waikitty, as it is generally called, and soon found ourselves surrounded by the low volcanic mountains, which bear the name of the Malvern Hills. They are very like the Banks Peninsula. We dined at a station belonging to a son of the bishop’s, and after dinner made further progress into the interior. I have very little to record, save that I was disappointed at not finding the wild plants more numerous and more beautiful; they are few, and decidedly ugly. There is one beast of a plant they call spear-grass, or spaniard, which I will tell you more about at another time. You would have laughed to have seen me on that day; it was the first on which I had the slightest occasion for any horsemanship. You know how bad a horseman I am, and can imagine that I let my companion go first in all the little swampy places and small creeks which we came across. These were numerous, and as Doctor always jumped them, with what appeared to me a jump about three times greater than was necessary, I assure you I heartily wished them somewhere else. However, I did my best to conceal my deficiency, and before night had become comparatively expert without having betrayed myself to my companion. I dare say he knew what was going on, well enough, but was too good and kind to notice it.

At night, and by a lovely clear, cold moonlight, we arrived at our destination, heartily glad to hear the dogs barking and to know that we were at our journey’s end. Here we were bona fide beyond the pale of civilisation; no boarded floors, no chairs, nor any similar luxuries; everything was of the very simplest description. Four men inhabited the hut, and their life appears a kind of mixture of that of a dog and that of an emperor, with a considerable predominance of the latter. They have no cook, and take it turn and turn to cook and wash up, two one week, and two the next. They have a good garden, and gave us a capital feed of potatoes and peas, both fried together, an excellent combination. Their culinary apparatus and plates, cups, knives, and forks, are very limited in number. The men are all gentlemen and sons of gentlemen, and one of them is a Cambridge man, who took a high second-class a year or two before my time. Every now and then he leaves his up-country avocations, and becomes a great gun at the college in Christ Church, examining the boys; he then returns to his shepherding, cooking, bullock-driving, etc. etc., as the case may be. I am informed that the having faithfully learned the ingenuous arts, has so far mollified his morals that he is an exceedingly humane and judicious bullock-driver. He regarded me as a somewhat despicable new-comer (at least so I imagined), and when next morning I asked where I should wash, he gave rather a French shrug of the shoulders, and said, “The lake.” I felt the rebuke to be well merited, and that with the lake in front of the house, I should have been at no loss for the means of performing my ablutions. So I retired abashed and cleansed myself therein. Under his bed I found Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. So you will see that even in these out-of-the-world places people do care a little for something besides sheep. I was told an amusing story of an Oxford man shepherding down in Otago. Someone came into his hut, and, taking up a book, found it in a strange tongue, and enquired what it was. The Oxonian (who was baking at the time) answered that it was Machiavellian discourses upon the first decade of Livy. The wonder-stricken visitor laid down the book and took up another, which was, at any rate, written in English. This he found to be Bishop Butler’s Analogy. Putting it down speedily as something not in his line, he laid hands upon a third. This proved to be Patrum Apostolicorum Opera, on which he saddled his horse and went right away, leaving the Oxonian to his baking. This man must certainly be considered a rare exception. New Zealand seems far better adapted to develop and maintain in health the physical than the intellectual nature. The fact is, people here are busy making money; that is the inducement which led them to come in the first instance, and they show their sense by devoting their energies to the work. Yet, after all, it may be questioned whether the intellect is not as well schooled here as at home, though in a very different manner. Men are as shrewd and sensible, as alive to the humorous, and as hard-headed. Moreover, there is much nonsense in the old country from which people here are free. There is little conventionalism, little formality, and much liberality of sentiment; very little sectarianism, and, as a general rule, a healthy, sensible tone in conversation, which I like much. But it does not do to speak about John Sebastian Bach’s Fugues, or pre-Raphaelite pictures.

To return, however, to the matter in hand. Of course everyone at stations like the one we visited washes his own clothes, and of course they do not use sheets. Sheets would require far too much washing. Red blankets are usual; white show fly-blows. The blue-bottle flies blow among blankets that are left lying untidily about, but if the same be neatly folded up and present no crumpled creases, the flies will leave them alone. It is strange, too, that, though flies will blow a dead sheep almost immediately, they will not touch one that is living and healthy. Coupling their good nature in this respect with the love of neatness and hatred of untidiness which they exhibit, I incline to think them decidedly in advance of our English bluebottles, which they perfectly resemble in every other respect. The English house-fly soon drives them away, and, after the first year or two, a station is seldom much troubled with them: so at least I am told by many. Fly-blown blankets are all very well, provided they have been quite dry ever since they were blown: the eggs then come to nothing; but if the blankets be damp, maggots make their appearance in a few hours, and the very suspicion of them is attended with an unpleasant creepy crawly sensation. The blankets in which I slept at the station which I have been describing were perfectly innocuous.

On the morning after I arrived, for the first time in my life I saw a sheep killed. It is rather unpleasant, but I suppose I shall get as indifferent to it as other–people are by and by. To show you that the knives of the establishment are numbered, I may mention that the same knife killed the sheep and carved the mutton we had for dinner. After an early dinner, my patron and myself started on our journey, and after travelling for some few hours over rather a rough country, though one which appeared to me to be beautiful indeed, we came upon a vast river- bed, with a little river winding about it. This is the Harpur, a tributary of the Rakaia, and the northern branch of that river. We were now going to follow it to its source, in the hopes of being led by it to some saddle over which we might cross, and come upon entirely new ground. The river itself was very low, but the huge and wasteful river- bed showed that there were times when its appearance must be entirely different. We got on to the river-bed, and, following it up for a little way, soon found ourselves in a close valley between two very lofty ranges, which were plentifully wooded with black birch down to their base. There were a few scrubby, stony flats covered with Irishman and spear-grass (Irishman is the unpleasant thorny shrub which I saw going over the hill from Lyttelton to Christ Church) on either side the stream; they had been entirely left to nature, and showed me the difference between country which had been burnt and that which is in its natural condition. This difference is very great. The fire dries up many swamps–at least many disappear after country has been once or twice burnt; the water moves more freely, unimpeded by the tangled and decaying vegetation which accumulates round it during the lapse of centuries, and the sun gets freer access to the ground. Cattle do much also: they form tracks through swamps, and trample down the earth, making it harder and firmer. Sheep do much: they convey the seeds of the best grass and tread them into the ground. The difference between country that has been fed upon by any live stock, even for a single year, and that which has never yet been stocked is very noticeable. If country is being burnt for the second or third time, the fire can be crossed without any difficulty; of course it must be quickly traversed, though indeed, on thinly grassed land, you may take it almost as coolly as you please. On one of these flats, just on the edge of the bush, and at the very foot of the mountain, we lit a fire as soon as it was dusk, and, tethering our horses, boiled our tea and supped. The night was warm and quiet, the silence only interrupted by the occasional sharp cry of a wood-hen, and the rushing of the river, whilst the ruddy glow of the fire, the sombre forest, and the immediate foreground of our saddles and blankets, formed a picture to me entirely new and rather impressive. Probably after another year or two I shall regard camping out as the nuisance which it really is, instead of writing about sombre forests and so forth. Well, well, that night I thought it very fine, and so in good truth it was.

Our saddles were our pillows and we strapped our blankets round us by saddle-straps, and my companion (I believe) slept very soundly; for my part the scene was altogether too novel to allow me to sleep. I kept looking up and seeing the stars just as I was going off to sleep, and that woke me again; I had also underestimated the amount of blankets which I should require, and it was not long before the romance of the situation wore off, and a rather chilly reality occupied its place; moreover, the flat was stony, and I was not knowing enough to have selected a spot which gave a hollow for the hip-bone. My great object, however, was to conceal my condition from my companion, for never was a freshman at Cambridge more anxious to be mistaken for a third-year man than I was anxious to become an old chum, as the colonial dialect calls a settler–thereby proving my new chumship most satisfactorily. Early next morning the birds began to sing beautifully, and the day being thus heralded, I got up, lit the fire, and set the pannikins to boil: we then had breakfast, and broke camp. The scenery soon became most glorious, for, turning round a corner of the river, we saw a very fine mountain right in front of us. I could at once see that there was a neve near the top of it, and was all excitement. We were very anxious to know if this was the backbone range of the island, and were hopeful that if it was we might find some pass to the other side. The ranges on either hand were, as I said before, covered with bush, and these, with the rugged Alps in front of us, made a magnificent view. We went on, and soon there came out a much grander mountain–a glorious glaciered fellow–and then came more, and the mountains closed in, and the river dwindled and began leaping from stone to stone, and we were shortly in scenery of the true Alpine nature–very, very grand. It wanted, however, a chalet or two, or some sign of human handiwork in the fore- ground; as it was, the scene was too savage.

All the time we kept looking for gold, not in a scientific manner, but we had a kind of idea that if we looked in the shingly beds of the numerous tributaries to the Harpur, we should surely find either gold or copper or something good. So at every shingle-bed we came to (and every little tributary had a great shingle-bed) we lay down and gazed into the pebbles with all our eyes. We found plenty of stones with yellow specks in them, but none of that rich goodly hue which makes a man certain that what he has found is gold. We did not wash any of the gravel, for we had no tin dish, neither did we know how to wash. The specks we found were mica; but I believe I am right in saying that there are large quantities of chromate of iron in the ranges that descend upon the river. We brought down several specimens, some of which we believed to be copper, but which did not turn out to be so. The principal rocks were a hard, grey, gritty sandstone, interwoven with thin streaks of quartz. We saw no masses of quartz; what we found was intermixed with sandstone, and was always in small pieces. The sandstone, in like manner, was almost always intermingled with quartz. Besides this sandstone there was a good deal of pink and blue slate, the pink chiefly at the top of the range, showing a beautiful colour from the river-bed. In addition to this, there were abundance of rocks, of every gradation between sandstone and slate–some sandstone almost slate, some slate almost sandstone. There was also a good deal of pudding-stone; but the bulk of the rock was this very hard, very flinty sandstone. You know I am no geologist. I will undertake, however, to say positively that we did not see one atom of granite; all the mountains that I have yet seen are either volcanic or composed of this sandstone and slate.

When we had reached nearly the base of the mountains, we left our horses, for we could use them no longer, and, crossing and recrossing the stream, at length turned up through the bush to our right. This bush, though very beautiful to look at, is composed of nothing but the poorest black birch. We had no difficulty in getting through it, for it had no undergrowth, as the bushes on the front ranges have. I should suppose we were here between three and four thousand feet above the level of the sea; and you may imagine that at that altitude, in a valley surrounded by snowy ranges, vegetation would not be very luxuriant. There was sufficient wood, however, to harbour abundance of parroquets– brilliant little glossy green fellows, that shot past you now and again with a glisten in the sun, and were gone. There was a kind of dusky brownish-green parrot, too, which the scientific call a Nestor. What they mean by this name I know not. To the un-scientific it is a rather dirty-looking bird, with some bright red feathers under its wings. It is very tame, sits still to be petted, and screams like a real parrot. Two attended us on our ascent after leaving the bush. We threw many stones at them, and it was not their fault that they escaped unhurt.

Immediately on emerging from the bush we found all vegetation at an end. We were on the moraine of an old glacier, and saw nothing in front of us but frightful precipices and glaciers. There was a saddle, however, not above a couple of thousand feet higher. This saddle was covered with snow, and, as we had neither provisions nor blankets, we were obliged to give up going to the top of it. We returned with less reluctance, from the almost absolute certainty, firstly, that we were not upon the main range; secondly, that this saddle would only lead to the Waimakiriri, the next river above the Rakaia. Of these two points my companion was so convinced, that we did not greatly regret leaving it unexplored. Our object was commercial, and not scientific; our motive was pounds, shillings, and pence: and where this failed us, we lost all excitement and curiosity. I fear that we were yet weak enough to have a little hankering after the view from the top of the pass, but we treated such puerility with the contempt that it deserved, and sat down to rest ourselves at the foot of a small glacier. We then descended, and reached the horses at nightfall, fully satisfied that, beyond the flat beside the riverbed of the Harpur, there was no country to be had in that direction. We also felt certain that there was no pass to the west coast up that branch of the Rakaia, but that the saddle at the head of it would only lead to the Waimakiriri, and reveal the true backbone range farther to the west. The mountains among which we had been climbing were only offsets from the main chain.

This might be shown also by a consideration of the volume of water which supplies the main streams of the Rakaia and the Waimakiriri, and comparing it with the insignificant amount which finds its way down the Harpur. The glaciers that feed the two larger streams must be very extensive, thus showing that the highest range lies still farther to the northward and westward. The Waimakiriri is the next river to the northward of the Rakaia.

That night we camped as before, only I was more knowing, and slept with my clothes on, and found a hollow for my hip-bone, by which contrivances I slept like a top. Next morning, at early dawn, the scene was most magnificent. The mountains were pale as ghosts, and almost sickening from their death-like whiteness. We gazed at them for a moment or two, and then turned to making a fire, which in the cold frosty morning was not unpleasant. Shortly afterwards we were again en route for the station from which we had started. We burnt the flats as we rode down, and made a smoke which was noticed between fifty and sixty miles off. I have seen no grander sight than the fire upon a country which has never before been burnt, and on which there is a large quantity of Irishman. The sun soon loses all brightness, and looks as though seen through smoked glass. The volumes of smoke are something that must be seen to be appreciated. The flames roar, and the grass crackles, and every now and then a glorious lurid flare marks the ignition of an Irishman; his dry thorns blaze fiercely for a minute or so, and then the fire leaves him, charred and blackened for ever. A year or two hence, a stiff nor’- wester will blow him over, and he will lie there and rot, and fatten the surrounding grass; often, however, he shoots out again from the roots, and then he is a considerable nuisance. On the plains Irishman is but a small shrub, that hardly rises higher than the tussocks; it is only in the back country that it attains any considerable size: there its trunk is often as thick as a man’s body.

We got back about an hour after sundown, just as heavy rain was coming on, and were very glad not to be again camping out, for it rained furiously and incessantly the whole night long. Next day we returned to the lower station belonging to my companion, which was as replete with European comforts as the upper was devoid of them; yet, for my part, I could live very comfortably at either.


Ascent of the Waimakiriri–Crossing the River–Gorge–Ascent of the Rangitata–View of M’Kenzie Plains–M’Kenzie–Mount Cook–Ascent of the Hurunui–Col leading to West Coast.

Since my last, I have made another expedition into the back country, in the hope of finding some little run which had been overlooked. I have been unsuccessful, as indeed I was likely to be: still I had a pleasant excursion, and have seen many more glaciers, and much finer ones than on my last trip. This time I went up the Waimakiriri by myself, and found that we had been fully right in our supposition that the Rakaia saddles would only lead on to that river. The main features were precisely similar to those on the Rakaia, save that the valley was broader, the river longer, and the mountains very much higher. I had to cross the Waimakiriri just after a fresh, when the water was thick, and I assure you I did not like it. I crossed it first on the plains, where it flows between two very high terraces, which are from half a mile to a mile apart, and of which the most northern must be, I should think, 300 feet high. It was so steep, and so covered with stones towards the base, and so broken with strips of shingle that had fallen over the grass, that it took me a full hour to lead my horse from the top to the bottom. I dare say my clumsiness was partly in fault; but certainly in Switzerland I never saw a horse taken down so nasty a place: and so glad was I to be at the bottom of it, that I thought comparatively little of the river, which was close at hand waiting to be crossed. From the top of the terrace I had surveyed it carefully as it lay beneath, wandering capriciously in the wasteful shingle-bed, and looking like a maze of tangled silver ribbons. I calculated how to cut off one stream after another, but I could not shirk the main stream, dodge it how I might; and when on the level of the river, I lost all my landmarks in the labyrinth of streams, and determined to cross each just above the first rapid I came to. The river was very milky, and the stones at the bottom could not be seen, except just at the edges: I do not know how I got over. I remember going in, and thinking that the horse was lifting his legs up and putting them down in the same place again, and that the river was flowing backwards. In fact I grew dizzy directly, but by fixing my eyes on the opposite bank, and leaving Doctor to manage matters as he chose, somehow or other, and much to my relief, I got to the other side. It was really nothing at all. I was wet only a little above the ankle; but it is the rapidity of the stream which makes it so unpleasant–in fact, so positively hard to those who are not used to it. On their few first experiences of one of these New Zealand rivers, people dislike them extremely; they then become very callous to them, and are as unreasonably foolhardy as they were before timorous; then they generally get an escape from drowning or two, or else they get drowned in earnest. After one or two escapes their original respect for the rivers returns, and for ever after they learn not to play any unnecessary tricks with them. Not a year passes but what each of them sends one or more to his grave; yet as long as they are at their ordinary level, and crossed with due care, there is no real danger in them whatever. I have crossed and recrossed the Waimakiriri so often in my late trip that I have ceased to be much afraid of it unless it is high, and then I assure you that I am far too nervous to attempt it. When I crossed it first I was assured that it was not high, but only a little full.

The Waimakiriri flows from the back country out into the plains through a very beautiful narrow gorge. The channel winds between wooded rocks, beneath which the river whirls and frets and eddies most gloriously. Above the lower cliffs, which descend perpendicularly into the river, rise lofty mountains to an elevation of several thousand feet: so that the scenery here is truly fine. In the river-bed, near the gorge, there is a good deal of lignite, and, near the Kowai, a little tributary which comes in a few miles below the gorge, there is an extensive bed of true and valuable coal.

The back country of the Waimakiriri is inaccessible by dray, so that all the stores and all the wool have to be packed in and packed out on horseback. This is a very great drawback, and one which is not likely to be soon removed. In winter-time, also, the pass which leads into it is sometimes entirely obstructed by snow, so that the squatters in that part of the country must have a harder time of it than those on the plains. They have bush, however, and that is a very important thing.

I shall not give you any full account of what I saw as I went up the Waimakiriri, for were I to do so I should only repeat my last letter. Suffice it that there is a magnificent mountain chain of truly Alpine character at the head of the river, and that, in parts, the scenery is quite equal in grandeur to that of Switzerland, but far inferior in beauty. How one does long to see some signs of human care in the midst of the loneliness! How one would like, too, to come occasionally across some little auberge, with its vin ordinaire and refreshing fruit! These things, however, are as yet in the far future. As for vin ordinaire, I do not suppose that, except at Akaroa, the climate will ever admit of grapes ripening in this settlement–not that the summer is not warm enough, but because the night frosts come early, even while the days are exceedingly hot. Neither does one see how these back valleys can ever become so densely peopled as Switzerland; they are too rocky and too poor, and too much cut up by river-beds.

I saw one saddle low enough to be covered with bush, ending a valley of some miles in length, through which flowed a small stream with dense bush on either side. I firmly believe that this saddle will lead to the West Coast; but as the valley was impassable for a horse, and as, being alone, I was afraid to tackle the carrying food and blankets, and to leave Doctor, who might very probably walk off whilst I was on the wrong side of the Waimakiriri, I shirked the investigation. I certainly ought to have gone up that valley. I feel as though I had left a stone unturned, and must, if all is well, at some future time take someone with me and explore it. I found a few flats up the river, but they were too small and too high up to be worth my while to take.

April, 1860.–I have made another little trip, and this time have tried the Rangitata. My companion and myself have found a small piece of country, which we have just taken up. We fear it may be snowy in winter, but the expense of taking up country is very small; and even should we eventually throw it up the chances are that we may be able to do so with profit. We are, however, sanguine that it may be a very useful little run, but shall have to see it through next winter before we can safely put sheep upon it.

I have little to tell you concerning the Rangitata different from what I have already written about the Waimakiriri and the Harpur. The first great interest was, of course, finding the country which we took up; the next was what I confess to the weakness of having enjoyed much more– namely, a most magnificent view of that most magnificent mountain, Mount Cook. It is one of the grandest I have ever seen. I will give you a short account of the day.

We started from a lonely valley, down which runs a stream called Forest Creek. It is an ugly, barren-looking place enough–a deep valley between two high ranges, which are not entirely clear of snow for more than three or four months in the year. As its name imports, it has some wood, though not much, for the Rangitata back country is very bare of timber. We started, as I said, from the bottom of this valley on a clear frosty morning–so frosty that the tea-leaves in our pannikins were frozen, and our outer blanket crisped with frozen dew. We went up a little gorge, as narrow as a street in Genoa, with huge black and dripping precipices overhanging it, so as almost to shut out the light of heaven. I never saw so curious a place in my life. It soon opened out, and we followed up the little stream which flowed through it. This was no easy work. The scrub was very dense, and the rocks huge. The spaniard “piked us intil the bane,” and I assure you that we were hard set to make any headway at all. At last we came to a waterfall, the only one worthy of the name that I have yet seen. This “stuck us up,” as they say here concerning any difficulty. We managed, however, to “slew” it, as they, no less elegantly, say concerning the surmounting of an obstacle. After five hours of most toilsome climbing, we found the vegetation become scanty, and soon got on to the loose shingle which was near the top of the range.

In seven hours from the time we started, we were on the top. Hence we had hoped to discover some entirely new country, but were disappointed, for we only saw the Mackenzie Plains lying stretched out for miles away to the southward. These plains are so called after a notorious shepherd, who discovered them some few years since. Keeping his knowledge to himself, he used to steal his master’s sheep and drive them quietly into his unsuspected hiding-place. This he did so cleverly that he was not detected until he had stolen many hundred. Much obscurity hangs over his proceedings: it is supposed that he made one successful trip down to Otago, through this country, and sold a good many of the sheep he had stolen. He is a man of great physical strength, and can be no common character; many stories are told about him, and his fame will be lasting. He was taken and escaped more than once, and finally was pardoned by the Governor, on condition of his leaving New Zealand. It was rather a strange proceeding, and I doubt how fair to the country which he may have chosen to honour with his presence, for I should suppose there is hardly a more daring and dangerous rascal going. However, his boldness and skill had won him sympathy and admiration, so that I believe the pardon was rather a popular act than otherwise. To return. There we lay on the shingle-bed, at the top of the range, in the broiling noonday; for even at that altitude it was very hot, and there was no cloud in the sky and very little breeze. I saw that if we wanted a complete view we must climb to the top of a peak which, though only a few hundred feet higher than where we were lying, nevertheless hid a great deal from us. I accordingly began the ascent, having arranged with my companion that if there was country to be seen he should be called, if not, he should be allowed to take it easy. Well, I saw snowy peak after snowy peak come in view as the summit in front of me narrowed, but no mountains were visible higher or grander than what I had already seen. Suddenly, as my eyes got on a level with the top, so that I could see over, I was struck almost breathless by the wonderful mountain that burst on my sight. The effect was startling. It rose towering in a massy parallelogram, disclosed from top to bottom in the cloudless sky, far above all the others. It was exactly opposite to me, and about the nearest in the whole range. So you may imagine that it was indeed a splendid spectacle. It has been calculated by the Admiralty people at 13,200 feet, but Mr. Haast, a gentleman of high scientific attainments in the employ of Government as geological surveyor, says that it is considerably higher. For my part, I can well believe it. Mont Blanc himself is not so grand in shape, and does not look so imposing. Indeed, I am not sure that Mount Cook is not the finest in outline of all the snowy mountains that I have ever seen. It is not visible from many places on the eastern side of the island, and the front ranges are so lofty that they hide it. It can be seen from the top of Banks Peninsula, and for a few hundred yards somewhere near Timaru, and over a good deal of the Mackenzie country, but nowhere else on the eastern side of this settlement, unless from a great height. It is, however, well worth any amount of climbing to see. No one can mistake it. If a person says he THINKS he has seen Mount Cook, you may be quite sure that he has not seen it. The moment it comes into sight the exclamation is, “That is Mount Cook!”–not “That MUST be Mount Cook!” There is no possibility of mistake. There is a glorious field for the members of the Alpine Club here. Mount Cook awaits them, and he who first scales it will be crowned with undying laurels: for my part, though it is hazardous to say this of any mountain, I do not think that any human being will ever reach its top.

I am forgetting myself into admiring a mountain which is of no use for sheep. This is wrong. A mountain here is only beautiful if it has good grass on it. Scenery is not scenery–it is ” country,” subaudita voce “sheep.” If it is good for sheep, it is beautiful, magnificent, and all the rest of it; if not, it is not worth looking at. I am cultivating this tone of mind with considerable success, but you must pardon me for an occasional outbreak of the old Adam.

Of course I called my companion up, and he agreed with me that he had never seen anything so wonderful. We got down, very much tired, a little after dark. We had had a very fatiguing day, but it was amply repaid. That night it froze pretty sharply, and our upper blankets were again stiff.

* * *

May, 1860.–Not content with the little piece of country we found recently, we have since been up the Hurunui to its source, and seen the water flowing down the Teramakaw (or the “Tether-my-cow,” as the Europeans call it). We did no good, and turned back, partly owing to bad weather, and partly from the impossibility of proceeding farther with horses. Indeed, our pack-horse had rolled over more than once, frightening us much, but fortunately escaping unhurt. The season, too, is getting too late for any long excursion. The Hurunui is not a snow river; the great range becomes much lower here, and the saddle of the Hurunui can hardly be more than 3000 feet above the level of the sea. Vegetation is luxuriant–most abominably and unpleasantly luxuriant (for there is no getting through it)–at the very top. The reason of this is, that the nor’-westers, coming heavily charged with warm moisture, deposit it on the western side of the great range, and the saddles, of course, get some of the benefit. As we were going up the river, we could see the gap at the end of it, covered with dense clouds, which were coming from the N.W., and which just lipped over the saddle, and then ended. There are some beautiful lakes on the Hurunui, surrounded by lofty wooded mountains. The few Maories that inhabit this settlement travel to the West Coast by way of this river. They always go on foot, and we saw several traces of their encampments–little mimis, as they are called–a few light sticks thrown together, and covered with grass, affording a sort of half-and-half shelter for a single individual. How comfortable!


Hut–Cadets–Openings for Emigrants without Capital–For those who bring Money–Drunkenness–Introductions–The Rakaia–Valley leading to the Rangitata–Snow-grass and Spaniard–Solitude–Rain and Flood–Cat– Irishman–Discomforts of Hut–Gradual Improvement–Value of Cat.

I am now going to put up a V hut on the country that I took up on the Rangitata, meaning to hibernate there in order to see what the place is like. I shall also build a more permanent hut there, for I must have someone with me, and we may as well be doing something as nothing. I have hopes of being able to purchase some good country in the immediate vicinity. There is a piece on which I have my eye, and which adjoins that I have already. There can be, I imagine, no doubt that this is excellent sheep country; still, I should like to see it in winter.

* * *

June, 1860.–The V hut is a fait accompli, if so small an undertaking can be spoken of in so dignified a manner. It consists of a small roof set upon the ground; it is a hut, all roof and no walls. I was very clumsy, and so, in good truth, was my man. Still, at last, by dint of perseverance, we have made it wind and water tight. It was a job that should have taken us about a couple of days to have done in first-rate style; as it was, I am not going to tell you how long it DID take. I must certainly send the man to the right-about, but the difficulty is to get another, for the aforesaid hut is five-and-twenty miles (at the very least) from any human habitation, so that you may imagine men do not abound. I had two cadets with me, and must explain that a cadet means a young fellow who has lately come out, and who wants to see a little of up-country life. He is neither paid nor pays. He receives his food and lodging gratis, but works (or is supposed to work) in order to learn. The two who accompanied me both left me in a very short time. I have nothing to say against either of them; both did their best, and I am much obliged to them for what they did, but a very few days’ experience showed me that the system is a bad one for all the parties concerned in it. The cadet soon gets tired of working for nothing; and, as he is not paid, it is difficult to come down upon him. If he is good for anything, he is worth pay, as well as board and lodging. If not worth more than these last, he is simply a nuisance, for he sets a bad example, which cannot be checked otherwise than by dismissal; and it is not an easy or pleasant matter to dismiss one whose relation is rather that of your friend than your servant. The position is a false one, and the blame of its failure lies with the person who takes the cadet, for either he is getting an advantage without giving its due equivalent, or he is keeping a useless man about his place, to the equal detriment both of the man and of himself. It may be said that the advantage offered to the cadet, in allowing him an insight into colonial life, is a bona-fide payment for what work he may do. This is not the case; for where labour is so very valuable, a good man is in such high demand that he may find well-paid employment directly. When a man takes a cadet’s billet it is a tolerably sure symptom that he means half-and-half work, in which case he is much worse than useless. There is, however, another alternative which is a very different matter. Let a man pay not only for his board and lodging, but a good premium likewise, for the insight that he obtains into up-country life, then he is at liberty to work or not as he chooses; the station-hands cannot look down upon him, as they do upon the other cadet, neither, if he chooses to do nothing (which is far less likely if he is on this footing than on the other), is his example pernicious–it is well understood that he pays for the privilege of idleness, and has a perfect right to use it if he sees fit. I need not say that this last arrangement is only calculated for those who come out with money; those who have none should look out for the first employment which they feel themselves calculated for, and go in for it at once.

You may ask, What is the opening here for young men of good birth and breeding, who have nothing but health and strength and energy for their capital? I would answer, Nothing very brilliant, still, they may be pretty sure of getting a shepherd’s billet somewhere up-country, if they are known to be trustworthy. If they sustain this character, they will soon make friends, and find no great difficulty, after the lapse of a year or two, in getting an overseer’s place, with from 100 to 200 pounds a year, and their board and lodging. They will find plenty of good investments for the small sums which they may be able to lay by, and if they are bona-fide smart men, some situation is quite sure to turn up by and by in which they may better themselves. In fact, they are quite sure to do well in time; but time is necessary here, as well as in other places. True, less time may do here, and true also that there are more openings; but it may be questioned whether good, safe, ready-witted men will not fetch nearly as high a price in England as in any part of the world. So that if a young and friendless lad lands here and makes his way and does well, the chances are that he would have done well also had he remained at home. If he has money the case is entirely changed; he can invest it far more profitably here than in England. Any merchant will give him 10 per cent. for it. Money is not to be had for less, go where you will for it; and if obtained from a merchant, his 2.5 per cent. commission, repeated at intervals of six months, makes a nominal 10 per cent. into 15. I mention this to show you that, if it pays people to give this exorbitant rate of interest (and the current rate MUST be one that will pay the borrower), the means of increasing capital in this settlement are great. For young men, however, sons of gentlemen and gentlemen themselves, sheep or cattle are the most obvious and best investment. They can buy and put out upon terms, as I have already described. They can also buy land, and let it with a purchasing clause, by which they can make first-rate interest. Thus, twenty acres cost 40 pounds; this they can let for five years, at 5s. an acre, the lessee being allowed to purchase the land at 5 pounds an acre in five years’ time, which, the chances are, he will be both able and willing to do. Beyond sheep, cattle, and land, there are few if any investments here for gentlemen who come out with little practical experience in any business or profession, but others would turn up with time.

What I have written above refers to good men. There are many such who find the conventionalities of English life distasteful to them, who want to breathe a freer atmosphere, and yet have no unsteadiness of character or purpose to prevent them from doing well–men whose health and strength and good sense are more fully developed than delicately organised–who find head-work irksome and distressing, but who would be ready to do a good hard day’s work at some physically laborious employment. If they are in earnest, they are certain to do well; if not, they had better be idle at home than here. Idle men in this country are pretty sure to take to drinking. Whether men are rich or poor, there seems to be far greater tendency towards drink here than at home; and sheep farmers, as soon as they get things pretty straight and can afford to leave off working themselves, are apt to turn drunkards, unless they have a taste for intellectual employments. They find time hang heavy on their hands, and, unknown almost to themselves, fall into the practice of drinking, till it becomes a habit. I am no teetotaller, and do not want to moralise unnecessarily; still it is impossible, after a few months’ residence in the settlement, not to be struck with the facts I have written above.

I should be loth to advise any gentleman to come out here unless he have either money and an average share of good sense, or else a large amount of proper self-respect and strength of purpose. If a young man goes out to friends, on an arrangement definitely settled before he leaves England, he is at any rate certain of employment and of a home upon his landing here; but if he lands friendless, or simply the bearer of a few letters of introduction, obtained from second or third hand–because his cousin knew somebody who had a friend who had married a lady whose nephew was somewhere in New Zealand–he has no very enviable look-out upon his arrival.

A short time after I got up to the Rangitata, I had occasion to go down again to Christ Church, and stayed there one day. On my return, with a companion, we were delayed two days at the Rakaia: a very heavy fresh had come down, so as to render the river impassable even in the punt. The punt can only work upon one stream; but in a heavy fresh the streams are very numerous, and almost all of them impassable for a horse without swimming him, which, in such a river as the Rakaia, is very dangerous work. Sometimes, perhaps half a dozen times in a year, the river is what is called bank and bank; that is to say, one mass of water from one side to the other. It is frightfully rapid, and as thick as pea soup. The river-bed is not far short of a mile in breadth, so you may judge of the immense volume of water that comes down it at these times. It is seldom more than three days impassable in the punt. On the third day they commenced crossing in the punt, behind which we swam out horses; since then the clouds had hung unceasingly upon the mountain ranges, and though much of what had fallen would, on the back ranges, be in all probability snow, we could not doubt but that the Rangitata would afford us some trouble, nor were we even certain about the Ashburton, a river which, though partly glacier-fed, is generally easily crossed anywhere. We found the Ashburton high, but lower than it had been; in one or two of the eleven crossing-places between our afternoon and evening resting- places we were wet up to the saddle-flaps–still we were able to proceed without any real difficulty. That night it snowed, and the next morning we started amid a heavy rain, being anxious, if possible, to make my own place that night.

Soon after we started the rain ceased, and the clouds slowly uplifted themselves from the mountain sides. We were riding through the valley that leads from the Ashburton to the upper valley of the Rangitata, and kept on the right-hand side of it. It is a long, open valley, the bottom of which consists of a large swamp, from which rise terrace after terrace up the mountains on either side; the country is, as it were, crumpled up in an extraordinary manner, so that it is full of small ponds or lagoons–sometimes dry, sometimes merely swampy, now as full of water as they could be. The number of these is great; they do not, however, attract the eye, being hidden by the hillocks with which each is more or less surrounded; they vary in extent from a few square feet or yards to perhaps an acre or two, while one or two attain the dimensions of a considerable lake. There is no timber in this valley, and accordingly the scenery, though on a large scale, is neither impressive nor pleasing; the mountains are large swelling hummocks, grassed up to the summit, and though steeply declivitous, entirely destitute of precipice. Truly it is rather a dismal place on a dark day, and somewhat like the world’s end which the young prince travelled to in the story of “Cherry, or the Frog Bride.” The grass is coarse and cold-looking–great tufts of what is called snow-grass, and spaniard. The first of these grows in a clump sometimes five or six feet in diameter and four or five feet high; sheep and cattle pick at it when they are hungry, but seldom touch it while they can get anything else. Its seed is like that of oats. It is an unhappy-looking grass, if grass it be. Spaniard, which I have mentioned before, is simply detestable; it has a strong smell, half turpentine half celery. It is sometimes called spear-grass, and grows to about the size of a mole-hill, all over the back country everywhere, as thick as mole-hills in a very mole-hilly field at home. Its blossoms, which are green, insignificant, and ugly, are attached to a high spike bristling with spears pointed every way and very acutely; each leaf terminates in a strong spear, and so firm is it, that if you come within its reach, no amount of clothing about the legs will prevent you from feeling its effects. I have had my legs marked all over by it. Horses hate the spaniard–and no wonder. In the back country, when travelling without a track, it is impossible to keep your horse from yawing about this way and that to dodge it, and if he encounters three or four of them growing together, he will jump over them or do anything rather than walk through. A kind of white wax, which burns with very great brilliancy, exudes from the leaf. There are two ways in which spaniard may be converted to some little use. The first is in kindling a fire to burn a run: a dead flower-stalk serves as a torch, and you can touch tussock after tussock literally [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] lighting them at right angles to the wind. The second is purely prospective; it will be very valuable for planting on the tops of walls to serve instead of broken bottles: not a cat would attempt a wall so defended.

Snow-grass, tussock grass, spaniard, rushes, swamps, lagoons, terraces, meaningless rises and indentations of the ground, and two great brown grassy mountains on either side, are the principal and uninteresting objects in the valley through which we were riding. I despair of giving you an impression of the real thing. It is so hard for an Englishman to divest himself, not only of hedges and ditches, and cuttings and bridges, but of all signs of human existence whatsoever, that unless you were to travel in similar country yourself you would never understand it.

After about ten miles we turned a corner and looked down upon the upper valley of the Rangitata–very grand, very gloomy, and very desolate. The river-bed, about a mile and a half broad, was now conveying a very large amount of water to sea.

Some think that the source of the river lies many miles higher, and that it works its way yet far back into the mountains; but as we looked up the river-bed we saw two large and gloomy gorges, at the end of each of which were huge glaciers, distinctly visible to the naked eye, but through the telescope resolvable into tumbled masses of blue ice, exact counterparts of the Swiss and Italian glaciers. These are quite sufficient to account for the volume of water in the Rangitata, without going any farther.

The river had been high for many days; so high that a party of men, who were taking a dray over to a run which was then being just started on the other side (and which is now mine), had been detained camping out for ten days, and were delayed for ten days more before the dray could cross. We spent a few minutes with these men, among whom was a youth whom I had brought away from home with me, when I was starting down for Christ Church, in order that he might get some beef from P-‘s and take it back again. The river had come down the evening on which we had crossed it, and so he had been unable to get the beef and himself home again.

We all wanted to get back, for home, though home be only a V hut, is worth pushing for; a little thing will induce a man to leave it, but if he is near his journey’s end he will go through most places to reach it again. So we determined on going on, and after great difficulty and many turnings up one stream and down another we succeeded in getting safely over. We were wet well over the knee, but just avoided swimming. I got into one quicksand, of which the river is full, and had to jump off my mare, but this was quite near the bank.

I had a cat on the pommel of my saddle, for the rats used to come and take the meat from off our very plates by our side. She got a sousing when the mare was in the quicksand, but I heard her purring not very long after, and was comforted. Of course she was in a bag. I do not know how it is, but men here are much fonder of cats than they are at home.

After we had crossed the river, there were many troublesome creeks yet to go through–sluggish and swampy, with bad places for getting in and