Letters from New Zealand 1857-1911
My dear St. John,
Since my last letter a long time has elapsed, spent in my first beginnings of work after ordination, but I may be able to give you a better idea of it than if I had written sooner.
Please put away all ideas of a Parish at Home, town or country. My "Pastoral district" has an area of about nine hundred square miles, all of it as Nature made it, roadless, but now occupied by a few sheepfarmers, shepherds and labourers, in all some four hundred persons, living at great distances from each other. One half of the country is plain, the rest hill and mountain; it stretches from the immediate neighbourhood of Christchurch to the Southern Alps, which at present form an impassable barrier westwards. One of my brothers has a sheep station in the hills, almost in the centre of the district, and with him I make my home; it is the first organized country district in the Canterbury Settlement, outside Christchurch and its neighbourhood, under charge of a resident clergyman; and so I may in some sense regard myself as a missionary, albeit my parishioners are mostly Church people.
For my work I keep three horses, and am in the saddle from Friday till Tuesday every week, visiting every part of my district, and generally seeing every page 51one of my parishioners, travelling in all sorts of weather, for though in this Southern Island of New Zealand there is more sunshine than at home, yet there is no lack of rain, and fierce gales, snow and frost, with winters often quite as severe as in the old country. It also means, at times, fording flooded rivers, rough, difficult going in hill country, mostly untrodden by the foot of man, and absolute dependence on the plains on the compass in thick weather. Add to this every sort of accommodation at night, sometimes in comfortable homes, sometimes in huts or outhouses of the roughest description, in wooden bunks, devoid of mattress, on clay floors, but always with openhanded hospitality, and the kindliest welcome, and plenty of plain food.
I soon discovered that one needs to be a horseman as well as a rider, and being fifty miles from the nearest blacksmith, have learnt to shoe my horse, at a pinch, keeping spare shoes, and the necessary implements, and to do what is needed in the case of sore backs, girth galls, and horse doctoring, in short, being one's own groom in everything. This all adds zest to the work, and as I never let anyone else handle my horses they will come to me anywhere, when loose, and I am not a little proud of the compliments paid them by many a settler, as, for example, the other day:—"A fine mare that, keeps her condition well, I'll give you £40 for her." "No," said I, "I think you know she's worth more than that." "Yes, yes, I ought to have remembered who you are, you are so good to all of us, but you see, I do a good bit of horse-dealing." I teach my horses to walk well, an accomplishment in journeys averaging forty miles a day which is invaluable, and so I not only ease my horse, but, always page 52having a solid book stowed in the saddlebags, I get through a good deal of reading. I have recently mastered, after many a perusal, Hansel's Bampton Lectures, tough reading, but full of trenchant argument, and most interesting to anyone who has sat at his feet in Hagdalen and listened to his expositions of Aristotle's Ethics, as you and I have done. As I often ride for hours meeting no one, I get through, in this manner, almost as much as if I were in my own study, and now and then I find that a sharp canter helps me wonderfully to see the drift of an intricate passage, on the principle of "solvitur ambulando."
Imagine yourself with me on one of my hill country expeditions. Arriving at noon at a shepherd's hut, we meet with a ready welcome and a substantial meal. There are children here, and, after dinner, I give them some teaching, partly in the Bible, and set them lessons to be ready for my next visit, enough to occupy them daily for some weeks. "There is a shepherd "says my host, "away up in the hills in the direction you are going, but out of the usual track; he scarcely ever sees anyone but the overseer of the station, and I think would welcome a visit from you, but I must tell you he is an old sailor, so accustomed to solitude, that you will find it hard to get any speech out of him; he goes by the name of Cranky Bill,' and they say never speaks a word except to his dogs and sheep."
Towards evening, after a long ride, I spied the hut on a spur below the ridge I was crossing, and made for it. A couple of dogs set up a noisy welcome, and the shepherd himself, just returned from his day's tramp, looked up and gazed at me, giving a sort of a nod of invitation, but never a word. Accepting the page 53situation, and saying nothing myself, on purpose, I attended to my horse and, after performing my ablutions in a tin basin on a bench outside, went into the hut; a typical sailor's hut, clean and tidy, with a small separate room containing two bunks. In the living room he was already preparing supper, frying chops and potatoes, and arranging the table with pannikins and tin plates for two. We sat down, not a word passed between us, as I wanted to humour him and tempt him to begin. Presently, looking up, I noticed a little shelf, and on it, amongst other books, two volumes of D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation in a small well-bound edition, of which I happened to possess the full set. "I see you are a reader, have you read those?" The ice was broken, and he replied, "Yes, and I wish I could get the other volumes." I told him that I had them and would bring them on my next journey. After that he talked freely, and told me of his life as a bluejacket, and his voyages to various parts of the world, and it was nearly midnight before we left the fireside for bed. Next morning he begged me to come again, and he seemed quite a different man after the wholesome talk of the previous night.
There are many such shepherds here, leading solitary lives, and it is marvellous how, as a rule, they escape illness and accident in their work, which keeps them far from any friendly aid in case of need. Their going daily is in very rough country, mostly on foot, dangerous slopes, strewn with rough rocks, shingle slides, and precipitous tracks. Merino sheep are fond of high ground and as sure-footed as deer, and in shepherding nothing would be more probable than a serious sprain, or broken limb, yet I have scarcely page 54ever heard of any such accident. On one occasion only did I find a man in real need and quite alone. His hut lies in a secluded valley through which few ever pass but myself, and the poor fellow, having been taken with severe colic, as it happened on my accustomed day for visiting him, was on the look-out for me, but failed to see me coming by the usual route. I was trying a short cut across country, over a very steep ridge, intending to drop down into the valley instead of working my way up its whole length. Looking down, I saw in front of his hut something that looked like a bed, and on it someone signalling with a white towel. The man had caught sight of me on the top of the ridge and, fearing I might pass him by, had dragged out a stretcher bed, so that I might see him lying on it. He was in a bad way, so I went off as fast as I could to the home station, whence the overseer sent men to fetch him, doing what he could for him until the Doctor arrived, whose house was forty miles distant.
It is Saturday evening, and I come to a station on the banks of the Rakaia River, in high mountainous country, where the river valley opens out magnificent views of the Southern Alps, always more or less snow-clad, the western sun sinking behind them, touching the highest peaks with glorious light, in contrast to the purple shadows which veil their rugged precipitous flanks below. Here the owner always arranges for a gathering of all hands on a Saturday evening, Sundays being impossible for me. Shearing, it happens, is in full swing, so there are a number of extra men, besides the shepherds of the station, shearers, fleece-pickers, wool sorters, and "rouse-abouts." I find that these gatherings for service are heartily welcomed by all page 55sorts, but you will understand one's difficulty in getting into touch with such men on such occasions, when there can be little of the usual solemnity of Church worship, and none of the associations which belong to a concerned rated building; I carry, of course, my usual robes, but otherwise one feels as if all the usual aids one has to one's work were absent, and it becomes a case of a man with men, face to face, at close quarters, accepted as such, and with a minimum of recognition of the official parson or priest.
On this particular occasion I got a useful hint. It happened thus: service and supper over, my host apologized for his inability to give me a bedroom. Would I mind sleeping in an outhouse, where I could have a stretcher? I soon made myself comfortable, and found that there was a partition wall which did not reach up to the open roof, the other part of the outhouse, a sort of saddle room, being occupied with men sleeping on shakedowns. Presently I heard voices: "I say, Jack, you got on all right, but I don't know your prayerbook, I warn't brought up to the Church." "But you could listen to the parson, I suppose?" "Yes, but what was that thing which he read last?" "That thing! Man, it was his sermon!" Ah, thought I, I must try and speak, and not merely read, and since then I have been schooling myself to do this, with more or less success. Certainly it seems to attract much better attention, but I find it much harder work than reading, and now and then no easy matter to keep one's presence of mind, as, for instance, lately, when a devout Wesleyan in the congregation, after his manner, suddenly said out loud, "No, no!" but fortunately for me, in another minute, "Yes, yes!" punctuating my statements all through page 56the sermon, so that I perceived that his negatives and affirmatives were, in fact, marks of approval. One great advantage, I think, in this somewhat unconventional work, is that it brings one into personal contact with all sorts and conditions of men.
Sunday morning, 6 a.m. A breakfast of milk and bread and butter provided for me over night, and my horse to be looked to before a long and difficult journey. I get away about 7 a.m., my track being through mountain valleys, traversed by numerous streams, strewn with boulders, and bristling with the prickly Acacia plant, "Wild Irishman," and spiky yellow speargrass. The going is very troublesome, and with all I can do in making the pace, where opportunity offers, it will be eleven o'clock before I can accomplish the twenty-seven miles to my destination. The scenery is magnificent, I doubt if Switzerland can beat it, but sometimes I begin to sympathize with our forefathers, who lived before our comparatively modern appreciation of landscape, and regarded Scotland and Switzerland as inhospitable and savage wastes, where a traveller might easily perish. Certainly, on a fine morning, with a good horse under you, and a companion, all goes well, and in this highland atmosphere you taste the joy of mere living, but 'tis a very different matter in showers of sleet, or rain that seeks out every crevice of your waterproofs, soaking your saddle, whilst your horse flounders through mountain bog and swollen streams. This is not unusual in summer, and in winter, even with a clear sky overhead, but with snow underfoot and ten or twelve degrees of frost, it is hard work for man and beast.
Towards the latter part of the route I speak of page 57there is a valley shut in by mountains which leads to a rather formidable river, named after our family, the "Harper" river, a torrent which has a short run from some secondary glaciers, and joins the Rakaia. Its riverbed is wide, and in flood time the force of the current is such that it cannot be safely forded. As yet I have not found it higher than the stirrups, but even then, if one is broadside on to the rushing water, it will rise right up to the saddle, and, like all these mountain torrents, it is icy cold. On the further side, in a lovely situation, Major Scott has planted his house, and lives there with his family and employées. The house nestles under a forest of Mountain Birch, so-called, but really a beech, with very small leaves, and the only decidous native tree in New Zealand, though, as the young leaf comes on whilst the old leaves are dropping, it seems to be an evergreen. For a mountain run there is a fair amount of grass, and plenty of shelter for sheep in the broken country, which is set in an amphitheatre of snowy peaks, bounded westward by ranges never yet crossed. It can be no great distance to the West Coast, but explorers report a mass of impenetrable forest on the western side of the ranges, extending hundreds of miles, and I doubt if such a wilderness will ever be colonized except through the discovery of gold. In future years, as elsewhere, the "auri sacra fames" may tempt men to venture, and so fulfil its appointed task of opening up an inhospitable waste to settlement and cultivation. All that is now known of the West Coast, save from the reports of passing vessels, of which Captain Cook's was one long ago, is due to my brother Leonard. Some little time ago, with a few Maoris and one Englishman, who was unable to page 58complete the journey, he managed to cross the Southern Alps by a pass in North Canterbury at the head of the River Hurunui. He met with great hardships, and no little peril in flooded rivers, subsisting a great part of the time on birds and eels, and even the fern root which the Maoris convert into a sort of bread, needing the digestion of an ostrich; and, after many weeks, having explored the coast for nearly a hundred miles, returned to report that the country was uninhabitable, but with the barren honour of being the first white man to cross the Island from sea to sea.
At noon all assemble for service, and after dinner and much talk, all the more welcome because I am a purveyor of news from other stations and a sort of unofficial postman, I retrace my steps,—a ride of twelve miles, to a fine sheet of deep water, twelve miles in length, shut in by lofty mountains, and one of the sources of the Rakaia river. Here there is only a good sized hut in which the overseer lives, managing the estate in the owner's absence. He comes out to greet me, a tall, well-built man, in very rough clothes, which do not disguise the fact that sheepfarming was not his original vocation,—one of those enterprising, educated men who have come out to Canterbury and are doing so much for this young community by their character and example; a Cambridge man, G. S. Sale, lately Classical Lecturer at Trinity. "Come in, glad to meet you; we're just ready for supper, only myself and two men,—you won't mind roughing it, I know." The hut consisted of one fair-sized room and a couple of other rooms furnished with bunks; on the table, guiltless of a cloth, there were two large tin dishes, one of chops, the other of potatoes and cabbage, fried together, flanked by tin plates and pannikins. My page 59host, wielding a long iron spoon, ladled out to each of us an ample supply and, with a flourish of the spoon, said, "You will excuse the lack of silver, and perhaps remember that 'He who sups with the D … 1 needs a long spune.'" "I'll take my chance of that," said I, "and don't think I run much risk," whereat the men at table grinned. Taking note of my surroundings, I observed several Latin and Greek books, and began to wonder how long the "Overseer" in the jumper and moleskin trousers would be content to lose himself in the pasture of this wild mountain solitude.
Next morning I tried a dip in the lake; its water is as sapphire blue as the deep sea, but so icy cold that I came out as fast as I went in. It is as yet un-fathomed by any length of available cord. Then I travelled down the Rakaia valley and made for the Gorge where it flows through a deep, winding chasm, cut through a barrier of rock, and finds its way to the plains; a most picturesque spot, for the rocky sides of the gorge, clad in places with small shrubs, average three hundred feet in depth, its southern side flanked by the spurs of Mt. Hutt, which reaches an altitude of five thousand feet. There is one small landholder here, the first in this district to purchase a few acres, carrying some cattle, in a place where he rarely sees a visitor, so I go to make his acquaintance. As I approach I notice that he and his wife, and son's wife, and their little boy, all seem to be keeping holiday in their best clothes, strolling about and looking at their garden. I introduce myself, and speak of the services I held yesterday, and am answered with: "But isn't to-day Sunday?" As is the case with many living in remote places, they had lost count of page 60the week. "There!" said the small boy, "and I put away my toys yesterday." From his point of view he had lost a day. Staying there that night, I learnt that they had discovered in the clefts of the rocks boulders which are geodes of amethyst and chalcedony crystal, and very curious water worn clay stones, shaped as if turned out by a lathe in many forms, discs, spirals, bunches of grapes, flattened out, and some almost the shape of a watch, with a handle. The next morning, with hammers and rope, we descended to the riverbed below the gorge, not liking the look of the precipitous rocks, and finding a favourable place, worked our way up about two hundred and fifty feet, and secured some very fine specimens of amethyst crystal, perfect in shape, and of deep colour, and then, after some effort, got safely to the top with our spoil.
Towards evening I rode to another station, in a beautiful nook in the hills, where Mr. Phillips has established himself with a large family. His sons manage the sheep, and it has been his pride to create in a wilderness as lovely a garden and as fruitful an orchard as one could find at home. It is ten years old, but here all growth is much faster than in England. A friend of his, also with a family, lives close by, so that together with the huts of the employees the place is like a small village. I have an evening service, and next day give some time to teaching the children, and late in the afternoon make my way across a low pass, which is a short cut to my home in the Malvern hills, winding up to the top of a rocky saddle, and downwards by the side of a considerable patch of forest. It was growing dark, and in amongst the trees I caught a glimpse of a fire, round which a group page 61of bushmen were discussing their supper. They were employed in cutting timber for neighbouring settlers, and had their tents close at hand. They invited me to have a pannikin of tea, and I noticed that one of them was rather different to his mates. As I was leaving he followed me, asked me where I lived, and whether he might come to see me. A few days later he came, and told me his story, common enough in Australia, but at present much less so in New Zealand, where we have fewer of those failures at home who are sent out to the Colonies, in the faint hope that a man who is a ne'er-do-well in England will succeed elsewhere, and in too many cases sent out with the promise of small remittances, to be out of sight and out of mind. He said his father was well-to-do, that he himself had been at Eton, but had given way to drink, and had been sent to Australia, from whence he had drifted to New Zealand, and he added that, though his father would have no more to do with him, his mother never ceased to write. A little cross examination soon convinced me that his story was true, and as he seemed in earnest to reform, I got him to take the pledge for five years, and wrote to his father. It resulted in his father's undertaking to remit to me a certain sum, on condition of his keeping the pledge, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that so far he is doing well and in a fair way of complete recovery, to the great joy and gratitude of his mother, who had never ceased to hope for her prodigal son.
Now let me tell you something of my Sunday work on the plains, where the open country makes larger congregations possible. It means three services, with journeys of many miles between them, and in some places congregations of forty people. It is curious page 62to note how one becomes accustomed to the absence of the aids to devotion and reverence which appeal to eye, and ear and heart, whether in some stately cathedral or humble village church, in the old country; the tower with its peal of bells, the heaven-pointing spire, God's acre with its memorials of the dead, the ordered ritual; the very atmosphere of the House of God, set apart from all common use, and consecrated not only once as an official ceremony, but by the prayers and praises, the sorrows and thanksgivings of countless worshippers who have realized in their House of God that Sacramental Presence promised to two or three who meet together; all this, in some measure touches the heart of the least devout. Is it possible, think you, to worship as one would wish in, for instance, such a place as that in which I held service last Sunday? Picture to yourself a New Zealand woolshed, long, and roughly built of wood, with high pitched thatched roof, somewhat in the shape of a church with nave, lean-to side aisles, but no chancel; a boarded floor redolent of greasy wool, the "side aisles" parcelled out into pens to hold sheep ready for the shearers; here and there a wool press, tables for wool sorting, bins for fleeces; all tidied up as well as may be for Sunday. It was shearing time, and yesterday the shed was full of the noise of work, scuffling and bleating of sheep, the sharp clipping sound of shears, now and then rough words; jests and laughter as evening drew in and work ceased, and men compared their tallies of sheep shorn, making ready for an off day to-morrow.
Can one expect to realize here the ideal of a place of worship as at home? Come and join in it. At the end of the shed is an upturned barrel, covered with page 63a fair white lined cloth. It is the altar. Near it a small table with Bible and prayerbook; chairs and rough benches, well filled; neither choir nor instrument; a shortened service, hymns, sermon; then a certain number of communicants, whilst many remain throughout the celebration. They have come riding or driving long distances, and do not readily forego their monthly chance of meeting together. I think you would soon forget the rude, primitive condition of the place, and regard it no more than the first Christians did, in the upper rooms or in the rugged gloom of the Catacombs.
Service over, there are many greetings and much talk, for these monthly gatherings are important functions where people live so far apart, and if the talk does run on the price of wool, or the returns of the lambing, or the merits of young colts, and perhaps the contents of the last papers from Home, by mail, which takes three months, what would you have, even if it is Sunday, in a country where your nearest neighbour is twenty miles distant? Then comes dinner, provided in part by the owner of the station, and in part by supplies brought by settlers who happen to have such luxuries as pigs and poultry, and, save the parson, it is late afternoon ere the company disperses. But he has a long ride before him for an afternoon, and then for an evening service.
In the evening I usually expect only the residents of the station, with an occasional stranger who is travelling and finds the usual hospitality common to all in a new country. On one of these occasions I was in the house of an old Waterloo officer, a Scotchman, who had entered the army as an ensign, and was naturally full of reminiscences of that day. After page 64service he told me that two of the men there had only just arrived, having run away from a ship in Lyttelton, and, at first, on his inviting them to come to the service, hesitated, because they had seen me ride up to the house and thought I was a "beak." Sailors often leave their vessels, tempted by the high rate of wages ashore, and are sometimes caught and sent back to their work, and their mistake may have arisen from my appearance, in riding dress, breeches and boots. Next morning, as I was saddling my horse, the men came up to talk, and owned to being deserters. "Me and my mate here, sir, want to know whether you really believe all that 'ere which you told us last night about Jacob?" "Yes," said I, "every bit of it, and you may be quite certain that if you do wrong, the same sort of punishment will come upon you,—what the Bible says, 'Be sure your sin will find you out.' Jacob's sin dogged him to the end of his days; God pardoned him, but he had to suffer for it all his life." Then they told me they were going up to the hills to get work, and as I turned to mount my horse, one said, "You won't peach, sir?" "No," I said, "not I, but you had better make off as soon as possible"; whereupon the other man pulled out of his pocket a little bottle of rum. "Have a drop, sir, before you start." "Well," I said, "I'm not a teetotaller, but if you take my advice, you'll smash that bottle and keep clear of drink." Down went the bottle on the stones, and we parted good friends.
As to the question of drink, so far as I have seen, people here are temperate, but there is a curious custom amongst many of the station hands; for many months they stick to work, never show-page 65ing any craving for drink; then comes their annual holiday; they draw a considerable amount for wages, and travelling to some shanty of a public house, or to Christchurch, proceed to "knock down their cheque," giving it to the landlord, and bidding him treat all comers as long as it lasts. Needless to say that all they get for their hard-earned money is a sore head and empty pocket. You may argue with them, and they gravely plead that to "have a burst" is necessary for health after the long monotony of station life and fare, and that it beats any medicine. Few are habitual drunkards, at least in the country districts. Of course there are many who save money, and in a few years' time are in a position to start for themselves, and not a few who have overcome temptation and are thoroughly temperate, of whom I will give an instance.
In the Gorge of the Waimakariri River, "the water of winter," which is the Northern boundary of my district, there is a long stretch of picturesque forest, clothing the steep terraces and level ground bordering the approach to the Gorge. In it is a small settlement of sawyers and timber cutters, working for the neighbouring sheepfarmers, most old sailors, some men-o'-war's men, as handy on shore as on board, making excellent wages in their new occupation. I often spend a night with them, finding rough but utterly clean and tidy quarters, and very good company, for most of them have sailed the high seas far and wide, and their yarns are delightful. One of them, an old bluejacket, the steadiest of workmen, used to go off for his yearly "burst," and return for a year's perfect sobriety. He took a great fancy to me, perhaps because once I lit on him on one of these returns to his page 66work in a decidedly curious plight. I was riding on the plains, and saw a loose horse, unsaddled, grazing, and a man squatting in the grass, watching the animal. It was the sailor, who had lain down to sleep full of drink, overnight, had unsaddled his horse, and forgot to tether him. "Well," said I, "what in the world are you doing?" "You see, sir, I slept it off, and I'm catching the horse; you see I've got a long rope, and I've made a bowline knot at t'other end and run this end through it, and I've spread it out in a big circle, and put my hat with some oats in it in the middle, and when the horse makes for the oats I'll I'll just haul in and catch him by the leg!" A truly original plan, worthy of Jack. Between us we managed to catch the animal, and then I rode with him and talked, and he agreed to give me a solemn promise, not a written pledge, that he would give up these annual bouts. Presently it came out that he had engaged himself to a housemaid in the service of the owner of Eastdale Nook station, close by the forest in which he worked. I arranged a day when I could come to his house for the marriage, in the presence of his mates. No such event had occurred in the neighbourhood before, and it naturally aroused much interest, and the owner of the station offered to provide a substantial wedding breakfast for the bushmen and their friends, to take place on the lawn in front of his house.
About a week before the wedding, I was at the Malvern Hills, sitting in my study, from which I could see several miles down the valley of the Selwyn River, and I saw the prospective bridegroom riding up to the house. He had come, he said, to consult me on an important matter. "It's this way, sir, I've been page 67thinkin'; Mr. Longden, he's goin' to do the square thing, givin' a fust rate spread for all hands, and Mrs. Longden, she's goin' to give Lucy a regular rig-out, 'cos she thinks so much of her, and Mr. Longden, he's bin and given her a young 'orse, and new saddle and tackle; and I've bin thinkin', sir, won't it seem a bit mean like if I don't do somethin'? so I thought I'd come over to see you. If Mr. Longden provides good grub and tea and coffee, how would it be if I was to ride to Christchurch and order up some "hard stuff" to give 'em somethin' to drink? You see, sir, it seems to me mean-like if I don't do nothin', and everyone doin' so much for me." "No," I said, "it won't do, take my advice, order enough bottled beer to go round, which will do no harm, but no grog." "But mightn't I have just a little, and then when they proposes the health of me and my bride, I could go round and serve out a 'tot' to each on 'em." "No," I said, "be content with the beer, and now you have so good a wife, be careful, and give me again your solemn promise to give up strong drink."
The appointed day came, and on arrival I was welcomed by his mates, one of whom, also a man-o'-war's man, was to be best man. "I've looked to Bill, sir, and made him learn his 'verses,' and say 'em to me last night, and I'll see to it that he says 'em all right. The wedding proceeded, Bill's best man standing behind him, with arms extended, just as if he were offering a knee, as second, in a fight; Bill managed his "verses" well enough, but when it came to the final exhortation, he and his mentor were somewhat taken back; they had not studied it together. As it went on and came to the words, "Now, likewise, ye wives learn your duties towards your husbands,"page 68
Bill, with his thumb, poked his bride in the waist, "Listen to that"; whereupon his "second," taking him by the elbows, jerked his arms down: "Be quiet, Bill, stow that! Be quiet!" Safely through the service, we went to breakfast, a right merry party, and when the time came for the departure of the couple, Bill carefully gave his bride a hoist up into the saddle, and then, turning to me with a sailor's scrape of one foot, and a courteous bow, said, "Touching that 'ere, sir, of which you and I was speakin' t'other day, it's here, sir! it's here!" and with an expressive gesture he laid his hand on his heart. The marriage, I am glad to say, has turned out a thorough success.
I could, of course, tell you of instances the reverse of this, sad enough, especially in the case of men, well born and educated, who have come to New Zealand with small capital, and have done fairly well for a time, often as Managers of stations. The monotony of their life has become an excuse for the bottle, and some have made complete shipwreck of their lives: "Corruptio optimi pessima." I am thinking of one, a splendid physical specimen of manhood, able, and willing to tackle any sort of work, a fine horseman, and with a natural power of command of men. He had been some time in South Canterbury, and won no small reputation by his clever capture of an enterprising sheep stealer, who had contrived to drive his plunder through unknown mountain country, and sell them to settlers at a distance. My friend followed his tracks and, after a sharp tussle, took him singlehanded. He had migrated to my district, and was managing a station in the back country in an almost unknown region; I met him coming over the pass page 69which led to it, one day, and he urged me to come back with him on his return, and see if we could discover fresh country. He was then the picture of health, and told me that for two years he had never touched drink. Alas, he fell in with evil friends, and within a few months died miserably. I never saw him again: you may imagine how hard it is to answer letters and inquiries from relatives at home in such cases.
I have lately had a pleasant change of work and society. A week's special services were arranged for in St. Michael's Church, Christchurch, and I was asked to take one of the week-day services. Nothing strange in that, you will say, but remember that I have been three years in my district, and since my ordination have never once been in a church. Only those who have had similar experience can understand what it meant to find myself in a well-ordered church, with reverent ritual, choir, organ, and a large congregation. Let me add something purely personal. I had thought out and written the sermon, and after breakfast was saddling my horse for a forty-five mile ride to Christchurch for the evening service, when my brother came up, and said: "Take my advice, don't read it, think it over as you ride; make a few notes, and deliver it from them, you'll find the ride an excellent preamble." I did so, not without some fear and trembling, but found that his advice was good.
I was also asked to examine the boys of Christ's College in Classics and Divinity. The College was intended by the founders of the Canterbury Settlement to be a public school of the English type, together with an Upper Department for training men page 70for Holy Orders as soon as possible. The Governing Body consists of the Bishop as Warden, with Fellows; whilst the school has a competent staff of masters, and some good wooden buildings. At present the boys number about seventy, including day boys and boarders. The College owns endowments in land which in future years should be of considerable value. After the examination a cricket match was organized, on a very rough pitch, between the Fellows and their friends, and the boys and masters, and though the play was by no means brilliant, the game was much appreciated, as the first attempt to establish an annual School Match.
I am, etc.,
H. W. H.