Taranaki: A Tale of the War
“For in this land of Heaven's peculiar grace,
The heritage of Nature's noblest race,
There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.”
Happy was that quiet, merry group, joined now by Mr. Wellman, a perfect gentleman of the old school, a younger son of an old English family in Devonshire, near Taunton, a respected magistrate, a kind father, and, noblest work of God, “a truly honest man.” His second son, Walter—a fine atlethic youth of twenty, the very picture of health and manly beauty, with the fine eye of deep feeling of one sister, and the merry smile of the other, a prototype of his father, and the farmer of the family,—joined them as they left the village road to enter again the grounds of Glenfairy, above the hill, where stretched away to the sea the well cultivated fields of Mr. Wellman. The eldest son, Arthur, being employed by Government at Auckland, in a lucrative post, the father and younger son managed the farms between them Thus, having introduced the principal actors in our story, we proceed.page 20
The Spring of 1859, or rather the month of September, wasushered in with all its beauty and fragrance in the Province of Taranaki, with every appearance of a rich and abundant harvest; happy peace and cheerful contentment seemed to be universal, poverty was unknown, very little sickness was found in the district, and the rich pastures were well supplied with a superior and varied breed of cattle and sheep, imported from England. Many wealthy men were spoken of as coming to purchase land within the Province, and much talk and discussion was going on, relative to opening further the country, by making roads and offering by such means and the sale of lands (on a more extensive scale) an inducement to the better class of men with capital to settle here. The only drawback to the rapid advance in the settlement of the lands was the Maori land-question, still the long vexed question between the Native inhabitants and the Government. As the interest in our story does not lead us into such enquiries, we will not trespass on our readers any dull detail of the pros and cons of Maori rights, or Government sale: suffice it to say that men of capital and a greater flow of the current coin was needed, and though the farmer's barns were full of corn, and his cultivated lands yielded a hundred fold, while his rich pastures were full of sleek cattle, and his flocks with snowy fleeces covered the plains, yet the medium of traffic was required, and barter in produce was resorted to, but found to impede the more quick growth of the general interests of the settlement. page 21 These remarks are sufficient to show the real state of the Colony at the time we write, and how desirable it was to open up the Country, and bring men of capital as settlers to the Province.
The cousin spoken of in the preceding chapter was a Captain in Her Majesty's — of the line, then quartered in India; he had not ever been in New Zealand, but had lived close to his uncle's place in England, and was most intimate with his cousins previous to his entering the army and their emigrating. Mr. St. Pierre having been left his guardian on the death of his father, some three years previous to the opening of our story, had invested the portion that was then left to his care in the Province of Taranaki, considered a most fortunate and good investment; thus a constant communication was kept up, and, although his widowed mother resided in Devonshire, England, yet he had procured leave of absence to visit his relatives in New Zealand and see after his property there. This visit was long talked of, long expected, and therefore his cousin Mary was naturally pleased at the prospect of meeting the dear companion of her childhood, though now, as he was grown to manhood, a soldier of some years' standing, he was almost forgotton. Captain Herbert St. Pierre was also fair, as the St. Pierres of Taranaki, tall and well formed, though, from a sabre cut across his face, and severe duty through the Indian Mutiny and Indian Campaign, he appeared much older than he really was, and whatever he might have been in a page 22 former day, he now had no claim to be deemed good looking; he had, however, the bright blue eye and smile of his cousin, and was of affable and intelligent manners and disposition, a general favourite amongst his acquaintances, and being of a studious character and fond of amusing his mother and friends with descriptions of his wanderings, we were able to obtain some of those written at this period; we therefore select one written to his mother shortly after his arrival at his uncle's, as giving a pleasing and faithful description of the country and his impressions as a stranger landing there, to which we devote a new chapter.