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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

First Announcement of the Parents’ Intention of Emigrating—The Projected Voyage—Tom's Opinion—Lucy and Beatrice—Lucy's Cowardice.

Lucy Graham was working very hard at a number of fancy bags and baskets, evidently intended for a Christmas tree, when her brother George entered the room.

“Mamma wants you, Loo; go to her dressing-room, and then back to me. Look sharp like a good girl, I want you very much.”

“All serene, Master,” exclaimed his sister.

“Miss Graham, where did you learn such a vulgar expression?” cried the governess, who happened to be passing, and stood in the doorway, looking the very picture of outraged propriety.

“From Papa,” was Lucy's answer, as she ran past the horror-stricken lady, and looking back made a face, for George's edification; he, however, was hunting through a large Atlas, and lost this exhibition of his sister's wit. An page 2 hour elapsed; at first it went very slowly, but getting interested in a book he was comparing with the map, the boy did not notice the length of time, nor did he hear his sister return, which she did very softly and with a very much altered countenance. Stealing up to George, she put her arms round his neck, and whispered.

“What is it all for, Georgy? Why need we go so far away? You're looking at the map, please tell me everything, dear. Mamma was crying so, Papa sent me away.”

“Poor Mamma!” said George. “You see, Lucy, Mamma thinks it is her blame, for it was all her fortune that was in the bank when it broke, and the people claimed so much money, Papa was obliged to sell all he could.”

“He never told me,” exclaimed Lucy, looking angry.

“You were at school you know; but let me go on; well, it might not have been so bad after all, but old Mr. Crossly had lost his money too it seems; and when he died the other day, Mamma only got £2,000, so they have decided to sell this house and go to New Zealand.”

“But, are not you going,” asked Lucy, remarking her brother said “they.

“No dear, not yet. I am to stay at college all next year, and when I've taken my degree, I'll follow.”

“Oh, George! what use is there in taking a degree to go out and settle among savages; surely, you don't really mean it. Papa never said anything, except that I was to practise as hard as I could; I should like to know what use it is. Who ever heard of pianos in New Zealand.”

Her brother smiled, but kept a little lecture he just then thought of for another time, merely saying “he would bring a piano out with him.”

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“Let me see the place we are going to George, oh! what is the name?”

“The Canterbury Settlement.”

“Ah, that will sound almost like home; only think of there being a Canterbury among the savages; I wonder if there's a bishop and a cathedral?”

“Of course there is, Miss Wisdom;” exclaimed a loud voice. The speaker, a boy of fourteen, and just a year older than Lucy, was flattening his nose against the window, having much to his own delight accomplished the feat of sitting cross-legged upon the narrow stone ledge outside; “of course there is, Miss Wisdom, and Cannibals too.

“Hoky, Poky, Wankum Wun,
How do you like your enemy done,
Roast or boiled, or fried in the sun—
The king of the Cannibal Islands.”

“You'll sing a different tune if you don't look out,” said George, laughing, “and that will be—

“Roley Poley sat on a wall,
Roley Poley got a great fall,
Three score men, and double three score,
Could ‘nt put Roley Poley up any more.”

Lucy rushed to the window just in time to see Tom turn a summersault off the ledge, and after standing upon his head on the grass for a second or two, finished off his performance by a clever imitation of a clown he had seen at Astley's. Lucy laughed, and clapped her hands with delight, for Tom was her favourite; and as they only met during the holidays, they were, when together, nick-named, “The Siamese Twins.”

Tom having performed long enough to satisfy himself, page 4 walked gravely into the house, and straight up to the sitting room.

“What were you two saying about New Zealand?” he asked, throwing himself into a large chair by the fire, “is Miss Wisdom going to convert the savages, and teach the monkeys.”

“There are no monkeys in New Zealand, Tom,” answered Lucy in a tone of rebuke.

“Ai'nt there, then I can tell you, Mam, you don't know anything about it; there's monkeys in all out-landish places.”

“But I tell you, Tom, there's not,” retorted his sister. “You'll soon see, we are going there.”

“Dont try to deceive me,” said Tom, “you and George have been looking up some rigmarole story; I only wish we were going, I'd get away from school, and hunt Caffirs and elephants, like Gordon Cumming; but you don't know anything about him, it's a boy's book, girls only read sentimental trash, and cookery books.”

“Why, Tom, I never read a cookery book in my life.”

“Oh! you're an exception,” replied Tom, “and exceptions make the rule, don't they, George.”

But George was sitting with his head leaning upon his hands, poring over a large book, and perfectly deaf to all that was going on. Tom did not attempt to interrupt him; but beckoning Lucy to come to him, asked:—

“Now, really, Loo, I'm in earnest, are we going to New Zealand? Tell me like a good girl, or I'll be off to Beatrice, she'll not deceive me.”

“Well, Tom,” answered Lucy, becoming very grave, “it is true; I've just been to the dressing room, and Mamma told me, herself; is'nt it a dreadful thing.”

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“Whoop, Hurrah! New Zealand for ever!” shouted Tom, kicking up his legs until he got red in the face, and had to stop from sheer fatigue, “Hurrah! no more Latin and Greek on Mondays, from old Crossbones. Oh! Lucy, you goose, what are you looking that way for, ai'nt you glad, ai'nt you happy; I am, I can tell you, and I won't call you my sister if you don't say so too.”

“Oh! Tom.”

“Oh! fiddlestick.”

“But Tom, listen.”

“I won't listen. The idea of looking that way, because you're going to lead a jolly life; we'll live in a tent like the soldiers, and shoot for dinner. I'll have a gun I can tell you, Miss; there now, sit down, and tell me all about it. When are we going?”

“In February, I believe; but here is Papa coming, he'll tell you all about it.”

“Oh! Papa,” exclaimed Tom, jumping up, and throwing his arms round his father, “when are we going to New Zealand? I'm so glad.”

Capt. Graham looked down into the bright handsome face turned up to his; it was really almost the first ray of comfort he had met since he had made up his mind to leave England; and the joyous gaze of Tom's bright blue eyes shone like a gleam of sunshine upon the future.

“So you like it, my boy,” said his father stroking his curly head, “I'm afraid nobody else does.”

Lucy here threw her arms round her father's neck, and exclaimed eagerly:—

“I do, Papa, indeed I do, and so does George; won't you sit down and tell us what kind of place it is. George is page 6 working so hard I cannot ask him; please tell us all about the country and people. Are the people cannibals or not?”

“They were a short time ago, Lucy, there's no doubt of that; but lately there has been a great change, and there are very few natives in the Canterbury district at all; and all that are there, have become Christians, in name at least. The settlement of Canterbury was founded by a large party of gentlemen belonging to the Church of England; and it has now a Bishop, Clergy, and College. A friend of mine who has been living out there for three years, says there is no place like it; and that nobody going there, would ever wish to live in England again.”

“Of course not,” said Tom, nodding his head approvingly. “But are there wild horses and buffaloes, Papa?”

“No, Tom.”

“Lions, then; or tigers?”

“No, neither; nor are there any animals natural to the country; but cats, rats, and dogs there are plenty of.”

Tom was evidently disappointed, and asked:—

“Then how do people live, if there is nothing to hunt and shoot?”

“Cannot they make the ground keep them, Tom?” asked George, now joining in the conversation. “You were always wishing to be a sailor; you'll have a first-rate chance of trying it now. And you, Lucy, will have your wish of milking cows gratified. Won't Lucy have to be dairymaid, Papa?”

“To be sure! and Beatrice henwife,” answered Captain Graham, as his second daughter entered the room, leading little Aps (as Arthur was called) by the hand.

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“Hallo! Beatrice!” shouted Tom, starting up; “only fancy! we are all going to New Zealand, and Lucy is going to be a savage, and you are going to be a henwife.”

Beatrice was a year younger than Lucy, but from her being delicate and unable to leave home, had been kept under the care of a governess—the lady we mentioned—and who had only given up Lucy the year before, her father thinking a school likely to make her apply more steadily to her lessons, and learn that it was necessary to know something beyond reading and writing, a climax Miss Nott found it impossible to attain, Lucy preferring her pony and large dog, the boat on the river, and animals left in her keeping by her absent brothers, to any lesson her governess could put before her; and as her father and mother left the direction of the schoolroom entirely to this same governess, she was obliged to recommend the measure of sending Lucy to school. Beatrice was much quicker than her sister, and looked even older, while from her gentleness, and readiness to do anything her brothers wanted, she was applied to in every difficulty; Lucy, herself, while envying Beatrice the influence she held over the boys, owned the same herself, and voluntarily resigned to her what little girls are so fond of considering their rights as elder sisters. The entrance of Beatrice, in the present instance, accompanied as she was by the “two-year-old,” as Arthur was generally called, brought about a repetition of their intended emigration, a plan her father and mother had already so often discussed in her hearing that it caused no astonishment on her part, being only a confirmation of what she had expected. The quiet and cheerful manner in which the little girl spoke of the page 8 change, and the comfortable picture she drew of the delights of a new home, and all they could do for themselves, soothed away some lingering clouds; and when Mrs. Graham sent to say tea was waiting, the little party in the dining-room were in full discussion as to the seeds, etc., it would be most advisable to take out with them. Poor Mrs. Graham, who had been dreading to meet her children, was instantly relieved by the group of bright faces that gathered round the table, still keeping up their conversation. Beatrice alone had noticed her mother's anxious looks, and, stealing up, kissed her as she whispered:—

“We are all so glad, dear Mamma.” Then settling Aps upon his high chair, she went off to her own, beside her father.

“Aps wanty Cannibal,” exclaimed the two-year-old, looking earnestly in his mother's face, and giving evidence that he had been no inattentive listener to the conversation. A general laugh followed the child's exclamation; but, nothing daunted, he repeated his question, and seemed almost inclined to refuse his slice of bread and jelly, until told by Tom it was a bit of a Cannibal.

This little incident, slight as it was, gave another tone to Mrs. Graham's feelings, and ere long she too joined in the merry conversation going on, and gave her opinion as to the relative merits of Spanish fowl or Cochin China, sweet peas or mignonette, etc., etc., rather startling Lucy by telling her she was determined not to take a servant with them, but meant to be cook herself, while Lucy and Beatrice should be housemaids. George proposed to make Lucy dairymaid, a post as he said best suited to her affection for cows. This made every one except the object page 9 of it laugh, it being a standing joke in the house, as to Lucy's cowardice; and many were the stories of her climbing walls, scrambling through hedges, and once being nearly drowned by trying to cross the river, just because a poor old cow had thought she was the farm maid coming to milk her, and had galloped across a field towards her. Lucy did not at all like being laughed at for being frightened, and boldly declared she would like to be allowed to milk the cows, an assertion her brothers laughed loudly at, and even Aps, fixing his bright eyes upon his sister, stammered:—

“Luce avy frighty; Luce avy great goose.”

Tea passed over, and then, the table being cleared, it was agreed by general vote to bring the Atlas, and hunt up the spot of their future home, while Papa read an account of it from one of the many books he had been consulting upon the important step he was taking; so, Aps was sent to bed, Mrs. Graham settled at her work, and the rest, gathering round the table, listened eagerly to their father, as he read the extracts he had made, and commented now and then as to what they should do in such or such cases. Thus the evening wore away, and when the hour of retirement arrived, and the servants had left the room, after prayers, every one felt that, come what might, and go where they might, they would carry their home with them, and as long as they were all together, no change of country could really affect their happiness.