The next day, the Governor Sir George Bowen, to whom I had a private introduction, asked me to lunch and to bring Dunny. He shewed us over the new House which has been recently completed and to which he had removed from Auckland only within the last 2 months. Lady Bowen is much liked, she is a very good entertainer and therefore popular. She is a Grecian by birth and a very good linguist. The children are exceedingly nice and Dunny very soon fraternised with them. The houses are all built of wood on account of the earthquakes. One earthquake shook the houses so much that the large chandelier in the Govt. House swung about so much that it hit the ceiling breaking it down on each side. The Harbour some miles in extent was raised 3 feet at once. Several large vents in the earth page 28 like the bed of a small river are still remaining. The Great Earthquake occurred in 1854 , - and it is said there is one due now!
I cannot give you an idea of the winds. They are something terrible. Whilst I write, a perfect hurricane blows and the wind sweeps over the hills on to the water in the bay, carrying clouds of spray along in a way I dare say you have scarcely seen. When it is fine, showers of dust and pebbles are driven along the beach, which make it quite distressing to be out. But when a still clear day appears, I assure you the view is fine, and about equal to the views in Morecambe Bay looking towards Windermere and the Lakes. To visit the Bush, too, gives a novelty perfectly charming. Here are the large ferns and fern trees in abundance with Palms and evergreen shrubs, in fact the vegetation is semi-tropical, but so far all I can judge is much the same all over New Zealand. The under-growth is enormously thick, consisting of what is called supple-jack and other creepers, - one of which is peculiar, as it smothers the original tree, or strangles it, and then unites its several stems into one huge tree, a sort of Forest King. It is not until you enter the bush that you can realise the difficulty of proceeding at any speed; - this can only be done by a native who is as supple as the creepers themselves. Then, moreover, there are several parasites, which grow out from the branches of the trees, much in shape of leaf like the “Gladiola” leaf;- these make the branches of the trees almost invisible in places, - so that when the native Maories were at war with our troops, the skirmishes of page 29 the Maories climbed up to these branches and were out of sight, but were everywhere popping at our men and killing them. The varieties of fern are numerous. I shall collect as many examples as possible, and hope to have the pleasure of shewing these on my return.
The Houses of Parliament gave up their Chambers for a Grand Ball, where certainly everything was in first-rate style, but there were some features of a most interesting character. Amongst the guest were an number of the Maorie Chiefs with their Wives and daughters. I should here say that the bearing of these recent savages was stately and proud and I might add, dignified; the chiefs, or rather the old ones, being tattooed in magnificent style all over the face. Their dress was, however, European. One old man, a great Chief, was pointed out, (indeed introduced), who was until a few years back, a veritable man-eater. It is said that in his early life he was fed entirely in the way of meat or human flesh. Nothing now angers him so much as a hint, or the smallest allusion to this past life, and he considers of course, it was owing to the ignorance of his fathers. Other chiefs were also introduced, who before now, had expressed their opinion that the leg of a woman and the arm of a man were the most delicate eating in the world. Further, the Maorie ladies, whose “blue lips” had been the admiration of their spouses, and the younger ones whose lips had not undergone the operation of tattooing, where dressed in the gorgeous colors that seem only to be adopted to the savage; a corresponding head dress was worn by each one,
decorated with a coronet adorned with a sort of Eagle’s feathers –
and Some were carrying a wreath of roses with large Peacock’s feathers, their ears bearing shark’s teeth colored, or boar’s teeth cut and carved; and wearing round their necks a necklace of greenstone ornament. They did not dance; but regarded the operation with great interest, and by degrees drew away to the champagne and eatables, where they indulged in ambrosial cups, and smacked their lips as if it were indeed the drink of the gods. I was pointed out as a stranger and often did they raise the cup in pleasant salutation, hoping, as they said, I would bring them good. So said I, in return. And now the supper is announced! The Maorie Chiefs and their Ladies know what this means, and take good care to follow Sir George and Lady Bowen in at once. How they appreciate the feast! I positively could do nothing but laugh, for as to order, such as we conceive in the arrangement of viands, it was ridiculous; - one lady began with salad to jelly, and a Maorie gentleman, it is said, thinking that the mustard pot was of a more taking color than the custards refused the latter, and stretched boldly into the middle of the cruet stand and made a speedy attack on the contents of the mustard pot. “Why do you shed tears?” asked a chief opposite. “I was thinking of my dead father”, said he, handing the delicious morsel across the table. A spoonful was taken by the Chief, when, equally stoical, changed not a muscle of his countenance, thus his eyes were suffused with moisture. “Why do you also shed tears?” – “I was thinking what a good thing it
would have been had you been buried with your Father”, was the reply.
you some Photographs to shew you the style of individual we had to meet; and also a Photograph of Wellington in 2 pieces – when they are joined, they give a good idea of the town.
We have been detained in Wellington a long time with charges of Negociations. The winds are something terrible and the rains continuous – sometimes for four days together. One day we had a splendid walk thro’ the Bush and had a very interesting picnic under the tree ferns. I have sent home some seeds of the Palm Tree, with instructions that you get some. The tree is a very fine one and all you need to do is to protect it from frost.
I have written this at intervals, and now close it on 26th Nov. We are all well. Parliament is prorogued. The session is over;- and an agreement was made for starting the construction of Railways. I leave today to go over one between Picton and Blenheim in the middle island. I hope to hear from home soon, for as yet I have had only one letter. When we get away from here into the Bush, we shall be out of all hearing.
We turned out some trout in a stream close by, the first that have be been put into the North Island. The fish are small, of course, only about an inch in length, but seemed to be doing very well.