Vicissitudes of Bush Life in Australia and New Zealand
The “Tararue” arrived in Port Chalmers several hours earlier than had been anticipated. Consequently, her page 314 passengers for Dunedin were landed at the jetty about four o'clock on the same afternoon. Apprised of this in time, I was on the wharf when the steamer arrived, and among her passengers I had the felicity of at once recognising my quondan employer, though now sadly altered by sorrow, against which his immense wealth had proved no specific. Grasping my hand with almost nervous eagerness, he betrayed what thoughts were uppermost in his mind, by the hurried ejaculation, “My daughter, is she well?”
“Well, and as happy as the society of her best friends can make her, for she is at present with the Campbells,” I replied with a smile.
“May the Lord reward you, Mr. Farquharson, for your goodness to my unhappy child, and for lifting off such a load of sorrow from my heart. But are the Campbells here? I always thought that they lived in Southland.”
I put him in possession of the circumstances that occasioned the presence of Mrs. Campbell and her daughters in Dunedin, as also of the happy accident of my meeting them as I had done.
“But see,” I continued, “here is Mr. Carmichael's carriage that he has sent to meet you, as he promised to do; so we had better get in at once, and you must prepare your mind, my dear sir, for meeting with your daughter within half-an-hour.”
In much less than that time Mr. Carmichael's spirited horses had borne us up to his house. Mr. Carmichael himself was on the verandah as we drew up. Hastily descending the steps, he met us as we stepped out of the carriage.
“Mr. Rolleston, I presume?” he remarked, as, without further ceremony, he took that gentleman's hand within his own cordial grasp; while, by way of introduction, I said: “This is Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Rolleston”.
“Compose yourself, my dear sir,” the former now rejoined; “you will find your daughter awaiting you inside; come away.” They entered the house, but, not thinking it quite in taste to make myself a spectator of the meeting that would follow between the long-divided father and daughter, I lingered on the verandah for some time.
When I eventually entered, Mr. Rolleston was seated in an easy chair by the fire, showing, by the way he bent towards it, that his thin, Australian blood was particularly sensitive to the chill breeze that so frequently rises of an evening in New Zealand. Beyond, however, a quietly happy expression on his face, there was no indication of any unusual emotion—no expression of delight on the romance of the hour—for the simple reason that there was not one particle of romance in Mr. Rolleston's page 315 prosaic nature. Save in the first rush of his natural feelings as a father (and of these he had his full share) on his meeting with his long-lost daughter, when he was overcome for a few moments, there was nothing to show that his thoughts had been moved from their wonted prosaic channel. And, though not without gratitude of the sincerest kind towards me, as his subsequent conduct showed, he had by this time assumed his wonted plain, practical manner of discourse; and business matters and topics of the day, ever paramount in his mind, were now being as calmly passed under review by him as if nothing extraordinary had so lately occurred to displace the habitual current of his thoughts. By his side sat his daughter, with a sweet expression of grateful love that gave a flush to her face and a softer light to her eye.
The conversation I will not attempt to describe. Suffice it to say that that evening was one of unmixed happiness.
As the evening drew on, other visitors, in the persons of the M‘Gilvrays (father and son), arrived. Lilly also found his way into the kitchen again, where he appeared to be perfectly at home, chatting with Tiny, as that comely damsel busied herself with the duties of her office.
That Tiny's interest in Lilly's arrival was of the liveliest kind, appeared to be amply demonstrated by the cordiality of her welcome and the liveliness of her speech, so contrary to her wonted demureness and almost staidness of manner.
On hearing that Lilly was in the kitchen, Mr. Rolleston instantly proceeded thither and, greeting him most cordially, took a seat and entered into conversation with him, as in former times had been his frequent habit. For Mr. Rolleston was always plain in his manners, and utterly wanting in that pride of place that causes most people in his position to affect an air of superiority when conversing with their dependents. Long, on the present occasion, did he stay talking with his former stockman, of whose worth and integrity he had always entertained such a high opinion. As for Lilly, he conversed in the same blunt manliness of tone to his old employer that he was ever wont to observe when under him, and for whom, as a master, his regard had been as great as had Mr. Rolleston's of him as a servant. Perhaps, on the present occasion, the wonted bluntness of his manners might have been slightly softened into a tone of more marked respect, for the pathos attending Mr. Rolleston's present circumstances and appearance in meeting with his daughter, to whose recovery Lilly's own chivalrous exertions had so largely contributed.
While Mr. Rolleston was with Lilly, Mr. Carmichael and the elder Mr. M‘Gilvray had also risen and withdrawn into another page 316 room where they remained a considerable time as if engaged in the discussion of matters of business. In due time I rose to take my departure. As I shook hands with Mr. M‘Gilvray senior, he glanced inquiringly at Mr. Carmichael.
“Yes, I know,” the latter replied, as if in answer to a mute inquiry, and going to the door with me requested me particularly to come to tea on the morrow, as there was a matter of business that he and Mr. M‘Gilvray wished to discuss with me. “Tell Lilly to come also,” he continued.
Of course this I readily promised to do, and shaking hands with him very heartily went away, wondering what the nature of this business might be.
On the following evening I duly fulfilled my promise, while, as usual, Lilly made for the kitchen. After tea I was summoned into another apartment, whither Mr. Carmichael, the elder Mr. M‘Gilvray, and Mr. Rolleston had already repaired. As this apartment was evidently used by Mr. Carmichael as an office, I immediately surmised that the subject for which I was now summoned must be something official. I was not permitted to remain long in suspense as to the nature of this business, for almost upon seating myself, the precise mannered Mr. M‘Gilvray delivered himself thus—
“We have sent to you, Mr. Farquharson, to speak to you on a simple matter of business. I am, myself, a practical man, who seldom wastes time in beating about the bush where business is concerned; so on the present occasion I will go to the point of what I desire to speak to you about at once. From your own remarks, and what we have otherwise learned of your late history, Mr. Farquharson, I think I am right in assuming that you are not very well off in money matters. This being apparent, both these gentlemen and myself, who have all such occasion for gratitude towards you—and, speaking for myself, for your courageous behaviour in preserving my son from a cruel and shocking death”—Mr. M‘Gilvray's voice here momentarily quavered—” for which words fail me to express my thankfulness—I say,” he continued, clearing his throat and regaining mastery of his voice, “that both those gentlemen and myself have been consulting together, how we can in some measure express our sense of these obligations to you. Now, one way presents itself of doing this in a substantial way, which I conceive should not be painful to you to accept of, nor unreasonable in us to offer you. In my hands lately, as estate agent, there has been placed for disposal a valuable run on the Windaway river. The run carries at present twenty thousand sheep, and its grazing capacities are such that two or even three thousand more added to that number would not overstock it. Now as page 317 the occasion of this sale is simply compulsory—being pressure of the mortgagees, who have no confidence in the present owner, who appears to have been a most injudicious manager—all this fine property can be obtained on the payment of the mortgagees' claims—that is £1 a head for the sheep. So that £20,000 will purchase it all, including improvements, horses and cattle, of which latter, however, there is no great stock on the place. Now the case stands simply thus: This property we three have decided to purchase for you, and you can repay us by yearly instalments.
“According to the most prudent calculations made by Mr. Rolleston and myself—who you will admit ought to be good judges of such matters—with such an advantageous start, there should be no obstacle in the way of an intelligent and energetic man making all this magnificent property his own in ten years' time, at the very furthest. Of your own fitness for such an undertaking, Mr. Rolleston's past experience of your efficiency and integrity when in his service, would be ample proof, even if none other were forthcoming; but I have also the testimony of my own son. It may be pleasing to you also to know that Mr. Rolleston himself has offered to supplement his own share of the cost of this purchase, by his personal security to both Mr. Carmichael and myself, against the possible contingency of loss to us in the undertaking. This security we have, however, declined, for, being equally obliged with him, we have thought it only right to be equal partakers in the risks that may be involved in this manner of expressing our sense of these obligations. Interest on this money of course you will be charged, but it will be at the lowest market rate, as our desire is to benefit you and not to burden you. Now, what do you say to this proposal? I should think it is one that is in every way suited to your taste and spirit.”
I, at first, felt quite stupefied with the very magnificence of the offer thus suddenly held out for my acceptance. But gradually, as I deliberately contemplated the full bearings of this proposal, so congenial to my taste and habits, my natural hardihood of spirit reasserted itself, and in thought. I could already feel my knees pressing Selim's sides, as I made the rapid circuit of this new field for my energies; and, with alert eyes, marked the details, whose attention was to crown my undertaking with the stamp of efficient management. Nor in the present instance did my natural horror of debt appal me as it had done at the idea of a loan from Charles Howden, when the prospect of a profitable investment had appeared so vague and shadowy. It happened also that I knew something of this same station property, for a few days before I had heard all its page 318 advantages canvassed by a station manager from the same district, with whom I had by chance foregathered at the Caledonian games. Taking all things together, therefore, I saw my way clear to the end, with as good a chance as ever man had, of coming out of this undertaking a winner.
These were the palmy days of wool and mutton, when a man with any practical sense and energy could not possibly have failed of success under such advantageous conditions as were then submitted to me. I, however, thought of Lilly, and determined on securing his co-operation with me in this enterprise. For while the thought pleased me of enabling him to share in my good fortune, I knew also that with his intelligence and energy in co-operation with my own, the risks of ultimate failure were proportionately reduced. To Mr. M‘Gilvray's question I accordingly made answer:—
“Gentlemen, that my thanks to you all are of the deepest and sincerest nature, for such unheard of generosity in making me such a magnificent offer as this, I need not say; and though the responsibility of incurring such a monetary obligation seems such a serious one, yet in view of the advantages I can see in this prospect, I have enough faith in my own sense and energy to induce me to accept your noble offer, as I feel convinced that you will never have cause to repent putting such trust in me as you have now shown. Yet, although certain that I shall be able to go through with this undertaking successfully by myself, I should be just as pleased if my friend Lilly could go with me into it. He has some money of his own to begin with, and with him to help me, any risk that there may be in this would be lessened.”
“Good! I approve of your idea, Mr. Farquharson,” here spoke Mr. Rolleston. “To Lilly's integrity and abilities, my own long experience enables me to bear the very highest testimony, and I should be glad to see him go with you as a partner in this run.”
“Let Lilly be sent for then at once, that we may see what he has to say himself about the matter,” said Mr. Carmichael.
Accordingly, Lilly was sent for. He came, and on the nature of the proposal being explained to him, he, for a minute or so, considered it squarely, and then gave his opinion, with his accustomed straightforward bluntness. “There is no man I know of that I would sooner go mates with into any speculation than with Mr. Farquharson. And if there is no other way for it, I am willing to go along with him into this run; but, left to my own choice, I would sooner be my own master, with what I have, than go partners with anyone; and no man can be his own master while he is a partner. I have £1500 of my page 319 own money, and this money I will put into this business with Mr. Farquharson, if there is no other way for him to get the run; but, if he can get on without me, I would sooner myself buy a small place, and work it after my own fashion. This is my mind on the matter.”
“Then,” replied Mr. M‘Gilvray, “there is no cause why you should not follow your own wish, the more so, as, bordering this run, I have also for disposal a small place, with a freehold of good arable land, of about 700 acres, and a government lease of mountain country, that, in all, is capable of carrying about 3000 sheep.”
“This is the place for me,” said Lilly, emphatically, “and let Mr. Farquharson take up the big run; and when he wants any help for mustering, or anything else, he will know where to find me.”
Thus this great matter was settled, and thus once more the clouds lifted from my life's prospect, and another stage in my chequered career began.
I then informed these true friends of Charles Howden's generous offer a few days before, and my motives for hesitating, at the time, to accept it.
“How like Charles Howden!” Mr. Carmichael warmly exclaimed, on hearing this. “My kind old friend, how true he appears to have always proved to that ideal that he seemed so early to have set up for his own guidance! I trust I shall see him to-morrow. I will look him up at his lodgings, if you will come with me, Mr. Farquharson.”
I replied that I would do so willingly.
Next day, accordingly, I took Mr. Carmichael to Howden's lodgings, where we found him at home. Long did these old friends converse together of days gone by, and the strange vicissitudes of life encountered since. I told him, too, of the bright changes in my prospects, and to whom I was indebted for it. Mr. Carmichael strongly advised Charles against his idea of settling in the old country, where he would simply lead a melancholy life in scenes from which his tastes and sympathies had been long weaned by his colonial experience.
“Go home, by all means,” was his practical friend's advice, “and solace your spirit with a sight of your childhood's haunts, but leave the bulk of your money, at interest, where you are. You will find yourself sated with a very few months of residence at home, with all its formalities and old-world notions, from which your long intimacy with the rough independence of colonial ways has utterly alienated all your sympathies.”
To this shrewd advice Charles was eventually persuaded to listen, and the event amply justified its wisdom. Within page 320 twelve months of his departure from Britain, Charles returned again to Dunedin quite content to settle there for life.
Impatient to visit our future homes, Lilly and I left Dunedin for the Windaway as soon as the necessary legal business in connection with them was fairly put through. Nor was our gratification at our new possessions a whit lessened on finding that our homes were not more than four miles apart, because my home station had been built near the end of the property marching with Lilly's ground.
Our manner of parting with our kind friends in Dunedin I will not particularise, but I do believe that Mary's regret on that occasion was not a little increased on Selim's account, on whose back, ever since the happy accident of our meeting, she was accustomed to take daily exercises; and for which animal, ever since her adventures with him on the Darling, when on the red bullock's broad forehead he gave the full benefit of his clattering heels, her regard had amounted to positive affection.