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Taranaki: A Tale of the War

Chapter VIII

page 51

Chapter VIII.

“Meanwhile had spread in the village the tidings of ill, and on all sides
Wandered, wailing from house to house, the women and children.
* * * * *
Piled in confusion lay the household goods of the peasants.
* * * * *
All day long the wains came lumbering down from the village.”
* * * * *


As soon as the Southern Settlers were informed that hostilities had thus actually commenced, and that the tribes still to the south of them were preparing to join in the conflict, they were filled with consternation. Knowing, from the character of these tribes—ever a villainous and treacherous race—that utter devastation would follow in their train, they determined at once to abandon their homesteads and farms and proceed to New Plymouth for mutual protection. Great, therefore, was the distress, anguish, and confusion, more particularly among the peasants and small farmers, who, not having the means of conveying page 52 with them their chattels, were compelled to leave them to the mercy of a ruthless foe. Neither, indeed, did our friends pass unscathed from the general calamity, and in one day it was alike the misfortune to all to abandon their comfortable and happy homes for the discomforts of a crowded town, little above the size of an ordinary village in England. With firm heart, however, and confidence in a higher power, Messrs. Wellman and St. Pierre prepared to seek shelter with their neighbours—and sad, indeed, and disheartening was the group that, on the 20th March, 1860, left the precincts of Glenfairy and the Retreat. As fate would have it, they met on their way, and, with a cheerful voice of salutation, each vied with the other to dispel the gloom of their hearts, in their leaving those abodes that years of toil and expense had reared.

Fanny and Mary rode together—the heart of each was full—entire confidence was now between them—and Mary communicated to her friend her little secret also, and the compact of mutual love that had been established between her and Walter, who now rode up to join the party, and with lusty voice bade them be cheerful, infusing by his manner fresh courage into their drooping spirits, which was no easy task to do as they passed along the crowded road. Nor could they see so many of their fellow-settlers in that melancholy procession, flying from their firesides, without sorrow and pity. It was, indeed, a sad scene, and one difficult to depict, as o'er hill and dale and down each page 53 winding road, came group on group in varied style—some with teams laden with their property—others urging on their steeds, not even having tarried to saddle them; then came waggons and bullock drays filled with children—a motley scene indeed—but all, alas! filled with gloomy forebodings for the future.

Mr. Wellman's family was kindly received in the house of an old friend, one of the most comfortable in the town, but still, from its crowded state, a great distress of mind to the more sensitive feelings of Mrs. Wellman,—one who was ever cautious not to intrude on any, and deeply felt the dire necessity which compelled them thus to encroach upon her friends. A house lately built and fitted as a goods store was taken by the St. Pierres, and though much cramped as to room, and changed from the spacious mansion they had left, with Aunt Dorothy's careful and energetic spirit, and Mary's cheerful one, their position compared to that of many others was enviable. Thus were our friends housed on the first outbreak of the war, but still hope was great with them, that the energetic measures about to be adopted would, ere long, restore them to their homes. Thus, also, in the hour of trial and sorrow, Mary sought the warm friendship of Fanny Wellman, and they often met to cheer each other and enjoy sweet counsel regarding those dear absent ones, for Walter had now departed for the field with his company, where an engagement was hourly expected.

All available buildings and houses of every descrip- page 54 tion were soon occupied and filled to overflowing by the settlers from every part of the country around. From lack of occupation of the land and desertion of their farms, it was found absolutely necessary to issue rations to most of the families in the place; thus, in a few days, this smiling Province was deserted and abandoned to a wretched tribe of lawless savages. The picture is now, indeed, reversed, and we must tell of that war which continued without intermission for twelve months.