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Taranaki: A Tale of the War

Chapter VI

page 34

Chapter VI.

“Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The spirit he loves remains.”


Captain St. Pierre to His Mother.After more than a month's interval, during which I have enjoyed life in this Province, I will give you a resumé of my experience therein. My first impressions have not been altered, and each ride or trip I take I see fresh scenes of beauty, and where Nature with most lavish hand has formed the landscape romantic and enchanting. I have visited the clearings in the bush, and everywhere the soil is rich and fertile, well watered with ever-flowing streams, and of the same description of scenery as already portrayed to you in my former letter, and I look forward with much pleasure and anxiety to the time when I may be able to beat my sword into a pruning-hook, and retire to this charming country of such glen and glade, where my taste for flowers may be indulged—where gardens may be made with every aspect from the great diver- page 35 sity of hill and valley—for the propagation of plants of every clime under the sun.

“Some days after my arrival, a party was made to visit one of the largest and finest farms in the settlement, Mr. Garde of Tataramaika, consisting of young Wellman, my cousin Charles, and a Mr. Hullwake, a gentleman with whom we were to breakfast. We started at early morning, and reached Poutako about half-past eight, where we were courteously received by two young ladies, the Misses Hullwake. Their home is a pretty cottage built on the side of a glen, and commanding a view of the sea, with a babbling brook seen at intervals flowing below their garden and shrubbery down to the shore. After breakfast we were detained for a short time to be initiated into the mysteries of cheese-making, for which our worthy host has a fair repute in the district. I was much pleased with the acquaintance, as we could not have found a more agreeable companion, or one of more general information. The day was fine, and after the late rains, the country was all fresh and green. On each side of the road the orchards and gardens expand throughout the vale. Further on are hill and dale, woods, gay fields, and glimpses of the distant mountain, sunny, rippling, joyous springs, affording altogether views of such landscapes as rendered Taranaki truly the Garden of New Zealand. Sometimes our road lay along the shore, and again we would travel over hill and dale; still of the same picturesque and diversified scenery. After some miles we reached an page 36 extensive plain, known as the Tataramaika block. There we entered upon the splendid farm lands of Mr. Garde, some seven to eight hundred acres in extent, and as we made several halts and detours to see the different views of the scenery, and the many comfortable homesteads throughout the district, it was late in the afternoon ere we reached our destination, where we were hospitably entertained, and remained the following day inspecting all the farm operations. It would weary you for me to enter into the particulars of my various trips, and still I must detail one or two of our picnic excursions and fětes which I have been present at. Of the latter, one, given in honor of the arrival of your devoted son, came off on the 20th instant, of course with great éclat, where I acted the part of principal guest, as Mary says, to admiration—and danced and flirted with all the girls to my heart's content. I often recall to mind your lectures on the subject, but I cannot always attend to them when in the gay and glittering throng of youth and beauty. My uncle's house was turned inside out for the occasion: the gardens and labyrinth in the glen were hung with lamps, although the bright full moon shone as clear almost as day, but with a cooler and more chastened light, enabling the festive group, during the intervals of dancing, to promenade through the open grounds; refreshments were laid out under the trees. I cannot describe all the gay and fair I met. The chief attraction in the room was a Mrs. Norwood, a lady of considerable beauty, highly informed, and ac- page 37 complished, who played and sung in brilliant style. The officers of the garrison aided with their gay uniforms to enliven the scene. The return fěte of Glenfairy took place ten days later, and was of a similar description, though, as there was no moon, we assembled earlier, rambled through the grounds and to the seashore until sunset, when dancing commenced in a large barn gaily decorated with flowers and evergreens. It was indeed a gay party and one to be pleasingly remembered by me.

“Next affair on the roll worthy of retailing to you is one of our frequent picnics. I select one from my note book, when some eighteen equestrians started at early morn for the Waitara, ten miles distant, intending to halt half way to breakfast. The morning was beautiful, and, after a sharp canter of five miles, we reached the Waiongaua river, whither the viands had been despatched before us, to be prepared by ourselves. Passing the Bell Block plateau of rich land and fine cultivated farms around, the road led through the Maori reserve over the rapid stream of Mungaraka by the pa of Mahau, a venerable old chief who came out to meet us; and from thence we entered on the valley of the Waiongaua, where we halted on a lovely spot chosen as a site for our repast. Two young ladies—the Misses Kerr and Noble—being chosen as directors, set to work with their appointed officers to kindle fire and prepare breakfast, which was done to perfection. Loitering here for an hour or so, we again took horse about ten and proceeded through a level fern page 38 land to the banks of the larger river Waitara, near to the Native pa of Huirangi, and halted in a most charming valley formed by the winding of the river, and known as the valley of the Waitera. Here boats and fishing tackle were provided for some, whilst others with sketch books chose the prettiest prospects to portray; others wandered over hill and glen, whilst our fair lady directors with chosen assistants selected a suitable spot for dinner and to prepare it. At three all met again in a lovely nook over the river under the shade of karaka trees, commanding a charming view of the river and of the sea in the distance. All were as in the morning, merry and gay: each recounted their various fortunes and adventures during the day until 5 o'clock, when we again mounted and returned not to our several homes, but to Woodlands, a gentleman's place in the neighbourhood of New Plymouth, where a dance and supper at a late hour closed a whole livelong day of pleasure and enjoyment—as a writer of the day would say, ‘unsurpassed in the annals of history.’ As for my individual happiness of the day, I can only say I was a chosen cavalier of Miss Wellman, and acquitted myself to my own entire satisfaction.

“I fear I have already extended the limits of space in this letter, though I could write long and unwearied on the subject, and my happiness during my residence in this Province. I am about to leave it soon, however, and in face of all the ills and drawbacks the Colony suffers from, there seems to be much comfort and page 39 happiness amongst all classes. I trust under a wise Government those evils will at least be diminished, ere I again visit these shores, where I hope eventually to become a settler.”