SETTLER AND MAORI
NORTHERN NEW ZEALAND.
WILLIAM DELISLE HAY,
AUTHOR OF "THREE HUNDRED YEARS HENCE," "THE DOOM OF THE GREAT CITY," ETC.
"Queen of the seas, enlarge thyself! Send thou thy swarms abroad! For in the years to come,— Where'er thy progeny, Thy language and thy spirit shall be found,— If— —in that Austral world long sought, The many-isled Pacific,— When islands shall have grown, and cities risen In cocoa-groves embower'd; Where'er thy language lives. By whatsoever name the land be call'd, That land is English Still."
IN TWO VOLUMES.—VOL. I.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
(All rights reserved.)
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCELES.
This book is descriptive of things as they are in a part of New Zealand, together with some reference to past history. It does not attempt to handle the colony as a whole, but refers to scenes within the northern half of the North Island only. This part of the country, the natural home of the kauri pine, is what I here intend to specify under the title of Northern New Zealand.
I am not an emigration-tout, a land-salesman, or a tourist. When I went to New Zealand I went there as an emigrant. Not until a few days before I left its shores had I any other idea but that the rest of my life was destined to be that of a colonist, and that New Zealand was my fixed and permanent home. I have, therefore, written from the point of view of a settler. Circumstances, which have nothing to do with this chronicle, caused me to lay down axe and spade, and eventually to become a spoiler of paper instead of a bushman. The materials of this work, gathered together in the previous condition of life, are now put in print in the other.
I trust no one of my colonial friends will feel offended, should he think that he discovers a caricature of himself in these pages. I have used disguises to veil real identities, occasionally taking liberties as regards time, situation, and personality. I think that no one but themselves could recognize my characters.
The substance of one or two chapters of this book has, in part, been already placed before the public in papers that I contributed to The Field last year, and is used again here by kind permission of the proprietor of that newspaper. Also, I have made the Kaipara the scene of several tales and sketches, which have appeared in sundry periodicals.
If, in writing this book, I had any object beyond that of amusing the reader, it has been to give accurate information to young Englishmen belonging to the middle-classes. From this section of home society a considerable number of emigrants go out who had much better stop at home. On the other hand, there are many who do not stir, and who would be much better off in a colony. Perhaps, from the record I am now able to put before them, some of these young gentlemen will be more able to decide whether they are personally adapted to become colonists in Northern New Zealand or not. If one unsuitable emigrant is hereby deterred from leaving home, and if one capable colonist is added to the population of "Brighter Britain," my labour will not have been altogether useless.
For the rest, I throw myself again upon the indulgence of critics, and on that of a public which has already abundantly favoured the efforts I have made to please and serve it.
LONDON, June 25th, 1882.
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
I. A "NEW-CHUM'S" INTRODUCTION 1
II. AUCKLAND 21
III. GOING UP COUNTRY 63
IV. IN THE KAIPARA 93
V. OUR SHANTY 115
VI. OUR HOME-LIFE 143
VII. OUR PIONEER FARM. I. 174
VIII. OUR PIONEER FARM. II. 196
IX. OUR SHOW-PLACE 227
X. OUR NATIVE NEIGHBOURS 253
XI. OUR SETTLER FRIENDS 285
XII. A PIG-HUNT 319
A "NEW-CHUM'S" INTRODUCTION.
Three months on board ship seems a long while to look forward to, yet it is but a short time to look back upon. Emigrants, being for the most part drawn from among dry-land-living populations, are apt to be daunted by the idea of a long voyage. People would be more ready, perhaps, to contemplate becoming colonists, were it not for that dreaded crossing of the sea which must necessarily be their first step. Their terrors may be natural enough, but they are more fanciful than real; and once overcome, the emigrant smiles at his former self.
After the first week or two at sea, the most inveterate "land-lubber" begins to feel at home; in another week or two he has become quite nautical, and imagines himself to have been a sailor half his life; while, when the voyage is over and the time come to go ashore, there are few who leave their floating home without regret.
As things are managed nowadays, there exists no reason for apprehension of the voyage on the part of would-be colonists. Emigrants who are taken out "free"—that is, at the expense of the colonial government—as well as those who pay their own passage, are cared for in most liberal and considerate style. The rivalry between the various colonies of Australia has had this effect among others—that the voyage is made as safe, smooth, and inviting to emigrants as is possible. They are berthed with an ever-increasing attention to their care and comfort, while they are absolutely pampered and fattened with abundance and variety of the best food.
No one expects to commence life in a new country without undergoing some amount of hardship and difficulty, and when the emigrant gets on shore, and begins to experience the various little annoyances that a "new-chum" must necessarily undergo, he realizes most thoroughly the pleasures and comforts he has left behind him on board ship; and, very frequently, vainly endeavours to suppress the wish that he was back on board "the old hooker" making the voyage out over again.
As to danger, nothing amuses an old salt more than the bare idea of the "perils of the sea." To him, a railway journey, short or long, appears an infinitely more terrible and risky undertaking than a voyage half round the globe; and he will enumerate the various dangers to which a landsman is exposed as vastly in excess of those which may happen to the mariner.
Life on board an emigrant-ship would, it might be thought, be somewhat dull and monotonous. As a matter of fact, it is scarcely ever found to be so. First of all, the little community of two or three hundred souls—men, women, and children—contrives to find sufficient fund for amusement in itself, in all the varieties of social intercourse.
The progress of each day is marked by some fresh events that, insignificant as they may seem when regarded from a distance, do yet bear the strongest interest to all on board. A glimpse at some distant land, the signalling or speaking of other vessels, the appearance of strange birds and fish, the passage into different climates, the excitement of a storm, or the opportunity which a calm gives for general junketing; all such incidents are looked upon as a real gain by the voyagers, while there is always something stirring on board to divert and enliven them.
All kinds of games are resorted to, many more, in fact, than landsmen have any idea of; a vast amount of reading is done; there are sure to be one or two on board who know how to spin a yarn with due effect; some are musical, and others can sing. Concerts, lectures, theatricals, and dances are got up; while, as there is generally a due admixture of the sexes, not a little flirting and downright courting is carried on; and, lastly, if there is any quarrelling and bickering, the differences of those who engage in it afford much amusement to the rest.
Altogether, the modern emigrant's existence on board ship is a calm, easy, indolent, well-fed, and cheerful interlude of repose, amid the storms and worries of the great battle of life. If existence has been to him hitherto rather hard and thorny than otherwise, he finds the voyage out a pleasant interval of rest and refreshment; and, in any case, it recruits and prepares him to better commence the new life in the colony, with good spirits and high hopes, with invigorated strength, and renewed health in both mind and body.
Although it might be thought that social equality would necessarily prevail on board ship, such is by no means the case. Of course there are great differences in the social tone of various ships, but, as a rule, "aft" seldom condescends to mix much with "forrard." Yet there are generally many interchanges of courtesy, as between upper, middle, and lower classes; and different messes will sometimes banquet one another. The "cuddy" will, perhaps, get up amateur theatricals or charades, to which spectacle the whole vessel will be invited; while the "steerage" will return the compliment with a concert, more or less brilliant in performance.
Thus, a pleasant interchange of civilities goes on aboard most ships, and serves to help make the time pass away. Differences of rank and station are supposed to be pretty well levelled down in the colonies. Most of the time-worn prejudices of the old country, it is true, melt away before the revivifying breath of colonial life, yet sometimes "Mrs. Grundy's" awful features will show themselves, hiding the old foolish face under a new and somewhat strange aspect.
It would be interesting to note how many of the most prominent and influential citizens of a colony came there originally in the humblest possible way; and how many of the dregs of colonial society—the occupiers of the lowest rung on the colonial ladder—reached their new home with all the pomp and circumstance of quarter-deck sublimity, and all the humbug and pretension of real or fancied aristocracy. Is the result we see—for these contrasts are to be found plentifully in all the colonies at the Antipodes—what it ought to be, or not? That is the question.
In the colonies, and particularly in the younger and newer among them, a man must perforce be the sole architect of his own fortunes. Industry and energy, enterprise and perseverance pave the pathway to success, and yield a real and lasting benefit to him who holds such endowments. A man must prove what he is, not what he was; his antecedents go for but little, and his "forbears" for nothing at all. In the Antipodean colonies of Great Britain is realized, perhaps, the nearest approach to true freedom; and, in a wide social sense, the closest approximation to the ideal republic.
However, we are still on board ship, and, after an easy and not too eventful voyage of some three months, are looking eagerly out for the first sight of the promised land. Bound to Auckland, New Zealand, our vessel is one of the largest that has yet sailed from Gravesend to that port; and she carries some three hundred emigrants and passengers on board. We have grown so accustomed to our good ship, and to our life on board of her, that we have got a strange feeling that this voyaging will never end; nor does the idea altogether arouse our discontent.
We have had one or two births, and, alas! one poor child has been taken from our little company. There have, of course, been no weddings on board, but the prevailing opinion is that several have been arranged to take place as soon as we get on shore. And the time is very near now.
At last, late one afternoon, as the ship is bowling steadily along with a ten-knot breeze on the port quarter, the deck is hailed from aloft, and the cheery, long-expected, and long-wished-for cry of "land ho!" is taken up by a hundred voices, and rings out across the sea. But there is nothing to be seen for all that; and though more than three hundred pairs of eyes keep anxious ward and watch, darkness falls before an almost imperceptible cloud upon the far horizon is pronounced oracularly by the mate to be Cape Maria Van Diemen, New Zealand's north-western-most promontory.
One may easily imagine that it is difficult to "turn in" on a night when such a fresh excitement fills every mind, but, I suppose, most of us do contrive to get to sleep eventually. With the first break of dawn in the morning there is a stir and commotion all through the ship. Rules are forgotten, and etiquette broken through, as men, women, and children rush hastily on deck to take their first look at our future home.
It is a beautiful summer morning. There is only a slight ripple on the surface of the water, and not a cloud in the blue sky overhead. The gentle breeze that just keeps us in motion blows off the land, bearing with it a subtle perfume of trees and flowers and herbage; how unspeakably grateful to our nostrils none can tell so well as we, who inhale it with ardour after so many weeks at sea.
Yonder, a mile or two to starboard, and seeming within a stone's throw, is the land we have come so far to seek. A wall of rock, the northern cliff of New Zealand rises abrupt and imposing from the sea, broken here and there into groups of pillared, pinnacled islets, nobly irregular in outline, piled and scarred, indented and projected, uplifted and magnificent. On the summit of the cliffs, on ledges and terraces, down at the bottom of the rocks, filling every little bay, and sweeping down the gullies and ravines, is everywhere abundant the wild foliage of the evergreen forest. Glorifying the rich and splendid scene, diversifying with numberless effects of light and shadow the whole panorama, shining upon the glowing sea, touching the topmost crags with sparkling grandeur, and bathing in beauty the thousand-tinted green of the forest, is the sun, which, on the eastern horizon, is rising clear and bright and steady. And so we gaze rapturously on the wide and beautiful picture—a picture the remembrance of which will remain with us long: our first sight of the new land of hope and promise.
Varied are the emotions that take possession of the individuals of our company; but I think there are some among us, more thoughtful or sentimental, perhaps, who, unconsciously to themselves, draw a kind of inspiration from the noble scene. To such there seems, in those majestic cliffs, sea-swept and forest-crowned, first seen as lighted by the rising sun, a nameless sermon preached, a wordless lesson taught, an everlasting poem sung. And our minds and spirits are calmed, refreshed, and invigorated; while in some dim way we grasp ideas that the silent scene irresistibly conveys to us. Rising within us, as we gaze, comes with fresh new force the knowledge of the qualities that should be ours: the high-hoping courage, the unshrinking energy, the dauntless resolution, and the unfailing industry that must animate the colonist, and be the best endowments of an inceptive nation!
Later in the day we round the North Cape, and go sailing on down the coast, with light and rather baffling winds that eventually bring us to port on the following evening.
Among our passengers are several old colonists, who are returning from a visit "home." In the colonies Great Britain is always spoken of as "home," even by colonial-born people. Talk about the raptures at returning to "my own, my native land!" that is nothing to the transports of joy that now infect our colonists. They laugh, they sing, they dance about the decks, they chatter "sixteen to the dozen," and display every eccentricity of unbounded delight and satisfaction.
Probably a good deal of this is put on for the edification of us new chums, but there is no question that most of it is an expression of real feeling. All through the voyage these good people have been in great force, relating numberless yarns of their past experiences, more or less truthful in detail. But now their self-importance is overwhelming and superior to all considerations. Every headland, bay, or island that we pass is expatiated upon, and its especial story told, in which, I note, the narrator generally seems to have been the most prominent figure himself. No one is allowed to remain below, even for meals, scarcely for sleeping; he or she must be up on deck to hear strange-sounding names applied to every place we sight.
Cape Kara-Kara is a name to us and nothing more. Whangaroa Heads, that guard the harbour of that name, with its settlements and saw-mills, is but little better, though some few, who have been industriously reading up, remember Whangaroa as the scene of the ghastly massacre of the crew of the Boyd, half a century ago. Capes Wiwiki and Brett we have no previous acquaintance with, though we have heard of the Bay of Islands, over whose wide entrance they are the twin sentinels. And then in slow succession we sight the Poor Knights Islands, Bream Head, the Hen and Chickens, the Barrier Islands—Great and Little, Cape Colville, Rodney Point, and the Kawau, Sir George Grey's island home.
And now, on the afternoon of the second day, we are running closer and closer to the shore; islands and islets are becoming more numerous, and the seas are getting narrower. Right ahead a conical mountain top is perceived, Tiri-Tiri is close to, and it is high time the pilot came aboard. That mountain top is Rangitoto, an extinct volcanic cone upon a small island that protects the entrance to Auckland Harbour. Presently we shall see the similar elevations of Mount Eden and Mount Hobson, that look down on Auckland from the mainland.
Of course, we are all on the qui vive of expectation, looking out for the first signs of life. Hitherto we have seen nothing to rob us of the notion that we are a veritable cargo of Columbuses, coming to colonize some new and virgin land, until now utterly unknown to the rest of the world. The shores we have passed along have presented to us every possible variety of savage wilderness, rocks and bush and scrub and fern, but no appearance of settlement at all, not even any signs of aboriginal life have we descried.
There is a growing idea getting the better of our common sense—an impression that there has been some sort of mistake somewhere or other. For, how can it be possible that we are just outside the harbour of a considerable city, with the shores of mainland and island as far as we can see, just as wild as Nature made them, wilder than anything most of us have ever seen before. The utmost recesses of Scotland, or Ireland, or Wales would look quite tame and domesticated contrasted with these rugged solitudes. Not a house nor a hut anywhere, not a trace of the presence of man, not even—so it chanced—another sail upon the sea!
It is close upon sunset, the foresail is backed, the pilot's signal is flying, and the foghorn sounding, and soon we shall see if there is any life or not in this weird new land. Presently, comes a shout of "Ship ahoy! ahoy!" apparently from the sea, and a little boat emerges from the shadow of the shore and makes its way alongside.
Of course every one rushes to the side to see the pilot come aboard. It being more than three months since we saw a strange face, we are naturally consumed with a burning curiosity. It is rather disappointing though, to have come half round the world only to be met by men like these. The pilot might be own brother to his fellow-craftsman who took us down the Channel, and his crew are just the same kind of brawny, bearded, amphibious-looking men that are to be seen any day in an English seaport. We had nourished an insane kind of hope that we should have been boarded by a canoe full of Maoris, in all the savage splendour of tattooing and paint and feathers; but here, instead of all that romantic fancy, are three or four ordinary "long-shore" boatmen, with a pilot who steps on board in the most matter-of-fact manner possible.
Well, we must make the best we can out of the circumstances; so, when the pilot has come out of the captain's cabin, where he has shown his certificate and discussed his "nobbler," when he has formally taken charge of the ship, and we are once more moving through the water, we begin to pester him with the question, "What's the news?"
Now, as we have been between three and four months at sea, isolated from the rest of the world, we are naturally all agog to hear what has happened in our absence. New Zealand's news of the old world is at least a month old, but then that is considerably in advance of our dates. The pilot has, therefore, enough to do in answering all the questions that are levelled at him, and as he is probably pretty well accustomed to similar experiences, he is, I fear, in the habit of allowing his fancy to supply any gaps in his actual knowledge of the progress of events; hence we glean many scraps of information that on further inquiry turn out to be more or less imaginative.
And now that we are entering the harbour of Auckland, it is unfortunately getting too dark to see much. There is not a long gloaming in northern New Zealand—once the sun has dropped below the horizon darkness succeeds very rapidly; so, though we get an indistinct glimpse at some houses on the shore as we sail along, it is quite dark as we round the North Shore and come into Auckland harbour.
There goes the anchor at last, with a plunge and a rattle! Now the good ship is swinging in the current of the Waitemata, and the voyage, that at its commencement seemed so long and that now appears to have been so short, is fairly terminated. Before us, extending to right and left, and up and down, are thousands of lights glittering and twinkling over the shadowy outlines of the city; while into our ears is borne the welcome hum and stir of city life. There is no going ashore until next morning—until the health officer and the customs shall have boarded and inspected us. So that night is devoted to the bustle and confusion of packing up; and various spoony couples moon about the decks, renewing promises and vows in expectation of their parting on the morrow.
When morning comes we make our bow to Auckland. There it lies, this Antipodean city, looking so white and clean and fair in the morning sunshine, stretching away to right and left, rising in streets and terraces from the shore, cresting the heights with steeples and villa-roofs, and filling up the valleys below. In the far background is the heavy brow of Mount Eden, whose extinct crater we shall explore by-and-by, and whence we shall obtain a splendid view of the entire city, its suburbs, and the surrounding country.
From our point of view out in the harbour the city presents a scattered and uneven appearance, that adds to its generally picturesque aspect. As a central feature are the long lines of wharves and quays with their clustering shipping; just beyond these is evidently the densest part of the city. Huge and imposing stone buildings stand thickly here, showing that it is the centre of the business part of Auckland. To right and left the ground rises abruptly and steeply, and the streets become irregular in outline. Nor is the shore a straight and continuous line; these heights on either hand are promontories jutting out into the stream, and hiding deep bays behind them, round which, straggling and irregular, sweeps the city.
The further our eyes travel from the centre of the picture, the more do we lose sight of any trace of uniformity in building. Quite close to the busy parts, so it seems to us, houses stand in their own wide gardens; the streets and roads are lost amid the embowering foliage of trees and shrubs. The house-structures are built on every conceivable plan, up and down the wooded shores; every builder has evidently been his own architect to a great extent, and there is no lack of elbow-room hereaway.
What surprise us most are the evidences of taste and cultivation and general prosperity everywhere in view. Our previous glimpses at the shore of our new country had not prepared us for anything like this. It is decidedly encouraging to new-comers, who are disturbed somewhat by the prospect of doing battle with the wilderness, to find a sort of Anglo-Saxon Naples here in the Southern Sea.
We had an idea that our arrival would have been quite an event in this little place. Nothing of the sort; Aucklanders are too well used to the arrival of emigrant ships. One or two enter the harbour every month, besides other craft; and then the Pacific Mail steamers, large and splendidly equipped vessels, call here twice a month on their way to and fro between Sydney and San Francisco.
There are one or two vessels like ours lying out in the stream at the present time, others are lying alongside the principal wharf, or its cross-tees, amid a forest of spars belonging to small coasting craft. Plenty of shore boats have come off to us on one errand or another; but it is evident that our arrival has not created that impression upon the city which we had had a notion that it would have done.
The morning papers will notice our advent, with a brief account of the voyage, and will give exceedingly inaccurate lists of our passengers. Only those people who expect friends or cargo by us will take any special interest in us; the evening promenaders on the wharf will glance at our ship with a brief passing interest; and the current of Auckland life will flow on unchanged, regardless of the fact that some three hundred more souls have been absorbed into its population.
Breakfast this morning is partaken of in the midst of a hurry-skurry of excitement, but, for all that, it is an imposing meal, and comprises all sorts of luxuries to which we have long been strangers. Beefsteaks, milk, eggs, fruit, and vegetables, fresh fish just caught over the side, and other fondly-loved delicacies are on the bill of fare. By-and-by, all formalities having been gone through, comes the parting with shipmates and the confusion of landing.
It is not without a strong feeling of astonishment that we step out of the boat that has brought us off, and enter the city. We were totally unprepared for the scene before us. From the accounts we had read and received, we had pictured Auckland to our minds as little better than a collection of log-huts, with here and there, perhaps, a slightly more comfortable frame-house. And here is the reality. A city that would put to shame many an old English town. A main street—Queen Street—that might even compare favourably with many a leading London thoroughfare in all its details. Fine handsome edifices of stone, with elaborate architecture and finish; large plate-glass shop-windows, filled with a display of wares; gas-lamps, pillar letter-boxes, pavements, awnings, carts, carriages, and cabs; all the necessities, luxuries, and appurtenances of city life, civilized and complete.
Truly, all this is a wonderful surprise to us. Our preconceived ideas, gathered from various books dating only a few years back, had led our fancies completely astray. Learning from these sources that, not much more than thirty years ago—in 1840,—the first ship-load of British emigrants landed in New Zealand; that since then the colony had struggled for bare life against many and great difficulties; that it had had to wage several desperate wars with the aborigines; had had its financial and legislative troubles; and was still so very very young, we were naturally prepared to find Auckland a rude, rough, and inchoate settlement, pitched down in the midst of a wilderness as savage and uncouth as those shores we passed along yesterday.
We know that a very few years ago, Auckland really was but what we had fancied it still would be, and so we comprehend now how little the people at home actually realize of the conditions of life at their Antipodes. Moreover, as we pass along the streets of this British city, set down here on the shaggy shores of Britain's under-world, in the very heart of recent Maori-dom, so remote and far removed from the tracks of ancient civilization, we look around us and are filled with wonder and a feeling akin to awe. This is what colonization means; this is the work of colonists; this is the evidence of energy that may well seem titanic, of industry that appears herculean; this is Progress! The thought thrills us through and through. We, too, have made our entry into the new world; we, too, have crossed the threshold of colonial life; and thus to-day, at the outset of our new life, our minds have opened to receive the first true lesson of the colonist.
Passing up Queen Street, after landing on the wharf, a party of us notice—or fancy we notice—a rather singular feature in the Aucklanders we meet. The men are grave and serious in deportment, and nearly all are profusely bearded; but one of us draws attention to the fact that all have strangely aquiline noses. Hebrews they are not—we know, they are of the same nationality as ourselves—so we seek explanation from a whimsical fellow-voyager, himself an old Aucklander.
"Ah!" says he, "that's a peculiarity of the climate. You'll have long noses, too, after a year or so. There's an Auckland proverb, that a new-chum never does any good until his nose has grown. You've got to learn the truth of that pretty soon."
Following up these remarks, he proceeded to add—
"It's like the proverbial cutting of the wisdom-teeth. After inhaling this magnificent air of ours for a year or two, your nose will grow bigger to receive it; and about the same time you will have spent the money you brought with you, gone in for hard work, learnt common-sense, and become 'colonized.'"
The reader will understand that a new-chum is, throughout the colonies, regarded as food for mirth. He is treated with good-humoured contempt and kindly patronage. He is looked upon as a legitimate butt, and a sort of grown-up and incapable infant. His doings are watched with interest, to see what new eccentricities he will develop; and shouts of laughter are raised at every fresh tale of some new-chum's inexperienced attempts and failures. Half the stories that circulate in conversation have a new-chum as the comic man of the piece; and if any unheard of undertaking is noised about, "Oh, he's a new-chum!" is considered sufficient explanation.
However, the new-chum is not supposed to be altogether a fool, since he will sooner or later develop into the full-blown colonist, and since sometimes it happens that one of his order will show colonists "a thing or two." He is one of the recognized characters of colonial society, and as he affords much material that seems infinitely ludicrous to the older colonist, so his faults and failings meet with lenient condonation.
Even the law seems to feel that the new-chum is scarcely a responsible being. At the time I write of, drunkenness was severely legislated against in New Zealand. A man who was merely drunk, without being actually incapable or riotous, was liable, if any constable saw fit, to be haled before the magistrate and fined one pound; and, on a subsequent conviction, might be sent to the Stockade (prison), without the option of a fine at all. The law stood something like that, and was impartially administered by the Auckland Dogberry. However, if an individual were pulled up, charged with even the most excessive tipsiness, including riot, assault, incapability, or what not, and could show that he was a new-chum, the sacred folly attributed to that state of being was held sufficient to bear him blameless, and he was always discharged on his promise not to do it again. I do not know whether this was intended as a sort of indulgence to newly-arrived voyagers, or whether, in the eye of the law, a new-chum was held to be an irresponsible being, who had not yet arrived at the moral manhood of a New Zealander. Certain it is, it was fact, and was largely taken advantage of, too.
In order to bear out one of the received theories regarding new-chums, namely, their utter want of frugality, we, some half-a-dozen young "gentlemen," who have come out in the cabin, go to put up at one of the leading hotels of the city. We have looked in at some of the minor hotels and houses of accommodation, but are daunted by the rough, rude, navvy-like men, who appear to chiefly frequent them; and we do not care to go to any of the boarding-houses, where parsons, missionaries, and people of that class mostly abound, and tincture the very air with a savour of godliness and respectability that is, alas! repugnant to our scapegrace youth.
We are young fellows with slender purses but boundless hopes, an immense belief in ourselves and our golden prospects; but with the vaguest possible idea of what manual labour, roughing it, and colonial work really mean. Therefore, we have decided that there is no reason to plunge at once into the middle of things, that we will look about a bit, let ourselves down gently, and taste a little comfort before proceeding further.
Our hotel is a solid, comfortable-looking edifice of stone, standing on a wide street that traverses a high ridge, and commanding a fine view of the harbour. It is well furnished throughout in English fashion, resembling any first-class family and commercial hotel of the old country. There is a long bar or saloon occupying the ground floor, with a parlour behind it; there are also a spacious dining-room and business-room. Upstairs there is a billiard-room, smoking-room, ladies' drawing-room, and bedrooms capable of accommodating thirty or forty guests. Behind the house is a large courtyard, round which are ranged the bath-rooms, kitchens, offices, and stables; while further back is the garden, principally used for strictly utilitarian purposes.
According to colonial custom there is little or no privacy, no private sitting-rooms, and if a visitor have a bedroom to himself, it is not quite such a sanctum as it would be in Britain. People stopping in the house are free to permeate it from kitchen to attic, if so minded.
There are three common meals—breakfast, luncheon-dinner, and dinner-supper—and any one who is not present at them, or who is hungry between times, will have to go without in the interval, and wait till the next regular meal-time comes round, unless he dare to invade the kitchen and curry favour with the cook, or goes down to some restaurant in the city.
Generally speaking, the table is furnished in a style most creditable as to both quantity and quality of the viands. There may not be such a show of plate and glass and ornament as there would be at a London hotel of similar status, but there is a plenteous profusion of varied eatables, fairly cooked and served up, to which profusion the home establishment is an utter stranger. Fish, fowl, butcher's meat, vegetables, breads and cakes, eggs, cream, and fruit, appear in such abundance that, when every one is nearly gorged, we wonder what can possibly be done with the overplus, especially since we are told that this is a city without paupers, as yet.
Fresh from the crystallized decorum of English manners, we are necessarily struck by the freedom of intercourse that prevails. Class prejudices have certainly been imported here from Europe, and exist to a small extent in Auckland society, but there is, withal, a nearer approach to true liberty, equality, and fraternity, at any rate in the manners and customs of colonists. The hotel servants show no symptoms of servility, though in civility they are not lacking. Every one is perfectly independent, and considers himself or herself on an equal footing with every one else, no matter what differences may exist in their present position—new-chums always excepted—while they ever bear in mind that such differences are only temporary, and may disappear any day in the chances and changes of life in a new country.
Our landlord and his wife preside at the meals, and, whoever may or might be present, comport themselves as a host and hostess entertaining a friendly party. In common with every one else, they take a lively interest in our intentions and prospects, and we are bewildered with conflicting advice and suggestions, some real and some jocular. They make us feel at home in the house very speedily, and cause us to forget that we are paying lodgers.
Not but what the bill will come up with due regularity, and will have to be met as promptly. And the mention of it reminds me to state that the tariff is eight shillings per day, inclusive of everything but liquors. This would be moderate enough in all conscience, according to English notions, but it is thought to be a luxurious price here. The minor hotels and boarding-houses in Auckland charge from a pound to thirty-five shillings per week. At present there is nothing higher than the price we pay at our hotel.
Having hinted at the social relations that obtain here, there will seem to be nothing outrageous in the following slight incident that illustrates them. One morning, soon after our arrival, I get down to breakfast rather late, after most of the guests have dispersed. Something seems to have creased our landlady's temper, for she greets me with—
"Look here, young man! I can't have people walking in to breakfast at all hours of the day. If you don't come down at the proper time, you'll have to go without in future—mind that!"
But at this juncture arrives the waiter, who is kind enough to favour me with his friendship, bringing with him a dish he has been keeping hot, and, as he slaps it down in front of me, he observes in a tone of mild remonstrance—
"Leave the man alone. I'll look after him. Now just you walk into that, my boy, and see if it won't suit your complaint!"
This is quite colonial style. But fancy an old-country landlady venturing to remonstrate with her boarder in such terms; and imagine the pitiable horror of a precise and formal Englishman, who might find himself so addressed by a waiter, and in the presence of the latter's mistress, too!
I am particular in styling Auckland a "city," and not a "town," for were I to use the latter term I should expect to earn the undying hostility of all true Aucklanders. It is a point they are excessively touchy upon, and as the city and its suburbs contains a population of more than twenty thousand—increasing annually at an almost alarming rate—it were as well for me to be particular. We take a stroll or two about the city in company with a colonial friend, who obligingly acts as our cicerone.
The wharf is naturally the first point of interest to new-comers. It stretches continuously out into the river from the lower end of Queen Street, and is over a quarter of a mile in length. It is built of wood, and has several side-piers or "tees," whereat ships discharge and take in cargo. The scene is always a busy one; and in the evening the wharf is a favourite promenade with citizens.
Out in the river, lying at anchor, is the good ship that brought us here, and not far from her are a couple of others, one of which will shortly sail for England. Puffing its way between these vessels is a little white cock-boat of a steamer, that seems tolerably well crowded with men, whose white sun-helmets and yellow silk coats give quite an Indian air to the scene. These persons are probably business men coming over in the ferry-boat from North Shore, where we can see some of their villas from the wharf.
Lying alongside the wharf are one or two vessels of considerable tonnage, loading or discharging cargo, while at their respective tees, whereon are offices and goods-sheds, are several fine steamers of moderate size. These ply in various directions, taking passengers chiefly, but also goods. Some go and come between Auckland and Grahamstown, or Coromandel, in the Hauraki Gulf; others go to Tauranga, the Bay of Plenty, Napier, Wellington, and the South Island; one or two go northward to Mahurangi, Whangarei, the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa, and Mongonui.
The splendid and sumptuously fitted-up Pacific liners that call here once a month, on their way between "Frisco," Hawaii, Fiji, and Sydney, are none of them in the harbour at present; but there, at the extreme end of the wharf, lies The Hero, the Sydney packet, and a magnificent steam-ship is she. All the schooners, cutters, and craft of small tonnage that fill up the scene, and crowd alongside the wharf and its tees, are coasting or Island traders.
There is one from the Fijis with cotton, coffee, and fresh tropical fruits; there is another from the Friendlies with copra and cocoa-nut fibre, which she will shortly transfer to some ship loading for England; and there is the Magellan Cloud, fresh from a successful whaling cruise in Antarctic Seas. There is a vessel from Kororareka with coal and manganese, or kauri-gum; there are others from Mahurangi with lime, from Whangarei with fat cattle, from Tauranga with potatoes, from Poverty Bay with wool, from the Wairoa with butter and cheese, from Port Lyttelton with flour, or raw-hides for the Panmure tannery, from Dunedin with grain or colonial ale, and so on and so on.
Just off the wharf, and facing the river at either corner of Queen Street, are two large and handsome hotels, while to right and left on the river frontage are sundry important commercial edifices. Passing to the left as we leave the wharf, we come to several extensive timber-yards, and to a long jetty, used exclusively as a timber-wharf. The immense piles of sawn timber lying here give to us new-chums some notion of the vast timber-trade of Northern New Zealand, especially since we learn that much which goes to the South Island and elsewhere is shipped direct from Whangaroa, Hokianga, the Kaipara, and other ports in the north. The road along the river front, here, is shortly brought up abruptly at the base of a lofty bluff, whereon is a church and other buildings, near the site of old Fort Britomart.
Retracing our steps, we enter Queen Street, the main street of the city. All the lower portion of it abutting on to the wharf was, we are told, reclaimed from swamp and mud only a very few years ago. The street is a fine one, leading straight away from the river, curving imperceptibly to the right, and gradually ascending for about a mile, until it branches off into other streets and roads. Down at the lower end of the street most of the buildings are of brick and stone; and some of them are of tolerably fine architecture. There are banks and warehouses and merchants' stores of all kinds, interspersed with hotels and public buildings. Higher up Queen Street, and in the cross-streets, stone and brick edifices are less numerous, and wooden houses more plentiful.
The broad, well-paved thoroughfare is crowded at certain times of the day with carriages, cabs, buggies, omnibuses, equestrians, express-carts, waggons, drays, and every species of vehicle. The side-walks are thronged with passengers, who pass up and down under the awnings that stretch from the houses across the wide pavement. Many of the shop-windows would do no discredit to Oxford Street or the Strand, either as respects their size or the goods displayed in them.
Some distance up Queen Street, and turning a little out of it, is the Market House, where a very fine show of fruit, vegetables, and other eatables is frequently to be seen; and then there is the United Service Hotel, at the corner of Wellesley Street, which is a structure that Aucklanders point to with pride, as evidence of their progress in street architecture. At night, when the gas is lit in the streets, the shops, and the saloons, and one mingles with the crowd that throngs them, or pours into the theatre, the Choral Hall, the Mechanics' Institute, the Oddfellows' Hall, or other places of amusement, instruction, or dissipation, it is almost possible sometimes to imagine oneself back in the old country, in the streets of some English town.
New-chums are able to notice some of the peculiarities of Auckland street-life, wherein it most differs from an old-country town. These arise principally from that absence of conventionality, which, certainly in many external things, is the prerogative of colonists. There is a mingling of people who seem on terms of perfect equality, and who yet present the most extraordinary difference in appearance. The gentleman and the roughest of roughs may happen to get together on the same piece of work, and when their temporary chum-ship ends the one cannot entirely cut the other, such being a course quite inadmissible with colonial views of life. Only one man may be scouted by any one, and that is the loafer.
Of course there are good people here who would fain introduce all the class barriers that exist in the old country; but they cannot do more than form little cliques and coteries, which are constantly giving way and being broken down under the amalgamating process of colonization. Where these offer most resistance to the levelling influence is where they are cemented by religious denominational spite, which is, unhappily, very prevalent in Auckland.
This general fusion of all sorts of people together produces a very amiable and friendly state of things. Etiquette is resolved into simple courtesy, not very refined, perhaps, but which is sufficient "between man and man," as Micawber would say. Prejudice must not be entertained against any man on account of his birth, connections, education, poverty, or manner of work; he is "a man for a' that," and entitled to the same consideration as the more fortunate individual who possesses what he lacks. Only if he be a loafer, or dishonest, or otherwise positively objectionable, will any man find himself under the ban of colonial society. And this society is not a mere set of wealthy exclusives banded together against the rest of the world; it comprehends everybody.
One sees in the streets abundant evidence of these conditions of social relationship. In the first place, costume goes for little or nothing. Men—I am coming to your sex presently, ladies!—men wear just what they please at all times and in all places, and without remark from others. One sees men apparelled in all sorts of ways; and it would be impossible to guess at a man's condition from his coat, hereaway.
In Queen Street once, I saw a well-dressed and thriving store-keeper touch his hat to a ragged, disreputable-looking individual, who was carrying a hod full of bricks, where some building operations were going on. It was a sudden impulse of old habit, I suppose, which had wrung that very uncolonial salute from the sometime valet to his former master, in whose service he had originally come out. I knew of one case where master and servant actually came to change places, and I may add, to their mutual advantage eventually.
A man would not be likely to receive an invitation to the governor's ball unless he had some pretensions to gentility, or was locally important. Yet, I suppose that the recipient of such an invite might turn up at Government House in a grey jumper and moleskins, if he were so minded, and would pass unquestioned. In such a case it would only be surmised that Mr. So-and-so was "not doing very well at present."
Women, as a rule, dress "to death;" and the more gorgeous the toilette the more likely is it that the wearer is unmarried, and a worker of some sort. The merest Irish slut can earn her ten shillings a week as a domestic, besides being found in everything; and better-class girls get proportionately more; so it is not surprising that they can clothe themselves in fine raiment. But there is no rule to go by—the expensively dressed woman may be either mistress or maid, and the plain cotton gown may clothe either as well. Only one thing is certain, the Auckland woman of any class will dress as well as she knows how, on her own earnings or her husband's.
We new-chums observe one or two peculiarities of this kind as we stroll about the city, and they are explained to us by our colonial friend. Some extremely dowdy females we see riding in a barouche are the wife and daughters of a high official, who is stingy to his woman-kind, so they say. Two youths we pass are in striking contrast, as they walk along arm-in-arm. One is got up according to the fullest Auckland idea of Bond Street foppery, while the other prefers to go about in very "creeshy flannen;" yet the two sit at the same desk in one of the banks, and earn the same salary; and neither they themselves, nor anyone else, seems to notice any peculiarity in the costume of either.
Then comes along a more remarkable pair still: a "lady" and a "man" apparently, or so they might be described at home. She is dressed in the latest fashion and with killing effect—muslin, silk, embroidery, chains, bracelets, laces, ribbons, the newest thing in bonnets, and the last in parasols—and has quite the air of a fine lady. He is a burly rough, bearded to the eyes, the shapeless remnant of a coarse wide-awake covering a head of hair that has seemingly been long unknown to the barber; his blue flannel shirt, ragged jacket, breeches, and long riding-boots, are all crusted deep with mud, while a stock-whip is coiled round his shoulders. They walk amicably along together, conversing, though there is something of an air of constraint between them. Our colonial friend nods to the man as they pass; and we ask him who the strangely assorted couple may be.
"Oh! he's a well-to-do stock-farmer," is the reply, "and has just come in with a herd of fat beasts."
"And the lady?" we ask.
"The lady! Ha! That's a new dairy-maid and house-servant my friend's just engaged. Guess she'll have to leave her fine feathers in Auckland! Precious little good they'd be to her at his place in the bush!"
And now for a sample of the native race, but very sparingly represented in the city at any time. A dignified and portly gentleman is rolling along, with an air as though the place belonged to him. He is a Maori, as we plainly see; moreover, he is a chief, and is at present a member of the House of Representatives. There is no trace of the savage about him, as he struts along in his patent leather boots, shining broadcloth, snowy shirt-front, massive watch-guard, and glossy silk hat, unless it be in the richly decorative tattoo that adorns his brown face, and over which a gold double-eyeglass has a somewhat incongruous effect
There is another Maori on the curbstone, looking a horrible tatterdemalion as he stands there in the scantiest and wretchedest of European rags, offering peaches and water-melons for sale. Him and his proffered wares the chief waves off with aristocratic hauteur, until he suddenly recollects that his humble countryman has a vote at the elections; then he stops, enters into a brief conversation, examines the kitful of fruit through his glasses with supercilious disdain, but eventually purchases a chunk of melon, and goes on his way munching it.
In the shops the same sense of equality is noticeable. Shopkeepers and their assistants are not the cringing, obsequious slaves that we know so well in England. There is none of that bowing and smirking, superfluous "sir"-ing and "ma'am"-ing, and elaborate deference to customers that prevails at home. Here we are all freemen and equals; and the Auckland shopman meets his customer with a shake of the hand, and a pleasant hail-fellow-well-met style of manner. Not but what all the tricks of trade are fully understood at the Antipodes, and the Aucklander can chaffer and haggle, and drive as hard a bargain as his fellow across the seas; only his way of doing it is different, that is all.
Auckland possesses a class whose members are akin to the street-arabs of London and elsewhere, but differ from them in many respects. The Auckland "larrikin" is a growing nuisance, but he is neither so numerous nor so objectionable as yet as his fellow in Melbourne and Sydney. Unlike the street-arab, he is either a school-boy, or earns his living somehow, or he is a truant from work of either kind. He probably belongs to some working family, whom he favours with his company only at such times as pleases himself, for he is utterly unmanageable by his parents. He has exuberant spirits and an inordinate love of mischief, which shows itself in manifold ways. He has a sort of organization of his own, and seems to revel in uncurbed liberty of action. Occasionally some wrathful citizen executes summary justice upon him, in spite of the fear that such an act may bring down the vengeance of the whole boyish gang; and sometimes the youth finds himself in the police-court, charged with "larrikinism," an offence that is sure to be severely punished. The "larrikin" easily gets a job, and works by fits and starts when it suits him, or when he wants money. He lives in the open air, sleeping anywhere, and getting his food no one knows how. He is not altogether bad—not so frequently thieving and breaking the law, as intent on simple mischief and practical jokes of the coarsest and roughest sort—still, he is a pest that Aucklanders inveigh heartily against, and would gladly see extirpated by the strong arm of the law.
We turn out of Queen Street into Shortland Crescent. At the corner is a large and handsome block of buildings constructed of brick, and having an imposing frontage on the Crescent. This contains the General Post-office and the Custom House. Not far distant, on the opposite side of Queen Street, is the New Zealand Insurance Company's establishment, more generally known as "The Exchange." It is the finest building in the city, excepting the Supreme Court, perhaps, and has a tower, and a clock which is the Big Ben of Auckland.
At the corner of Shortland Crescent and Queen Street, and just under the front of the Post-office, is a kind of rendezvous that serves as a Petite Bourse, or Cornhill, to those who go "on 'Change" in Auckland. Here congregate little knots of eager-eyed men—stock-jobbers most of them—waiting for news from the Thames gold field, perhaps, or for telegrams from elsewhere. Ever and anon some report spreads among them, there is an excited flutter, mysterious consultations and references to note books, and scrip of the "Union Beach," the "Caledonian," or the "Golden Crown," changes hands, and goes "up" or "down," as the case may be, while fortunes—in a small way—are made or marred.
Toiling on up the steep ascent of the Crescent, we come out on a broad road that runs along the summit of the range, and close to an ugly church, St. Matthew's, that crowns the bluff looking over the harbour. From various points here there are good views of the city obtainable; and our guide is able to expatiate on most of its beauties and characteristics. Down below us is the splendid and extensive harbour, land-locked, and capable of containing the whole British navy. Right opposite is the North Head, or North Shore, as it is usually termed, on whose twin volcanic peaks is an Armstrong battery, to defend the harbour entrance in case of need. There is also the signal station on Mount Victoria, whence incoming vessels may be sighted outside of Tiri-tiri and the Barrier Islands. There are the villages of Stokes' Point, West Devonport, and East Devonport beyond, facing the open Pacific, and renowned for its salubrious sea-breezes.
Just beneath us is the railway station, whence the line runs across the isthmus, connecting Auckland with Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour, where the West Coast traffic is carried on, and thus placing Auckland, like Corinth, upon two seas. The railway also extends southwards to the Waikato. Onehunga is only some half-dozen miles from the outskirts of the city, and the road to it lies between fields and meadows, bordered with hedgerows, by villa and cottage and homestead, quite in English rural style. The road also leads by Ellerslie race-course, and the Ellerslie Gardens, the Auckland Rosherville.
The coastal traffic that is carried on in the Manukau is nearly equal in extent to the similar trade done in the Waitemata, hence the commercial importance of Auckland can hardly be rivalled by that of any other city of New Zealand. Dunedin, in the far south, holds a similar status to Auckland in the north, but the cities are too far distant (some eight hundred nautical miles) to become rivals to the detriment of each other.
Beyond the railway, we look across the inland sweep of Mechanic's Bay to the rising ground on its further side, crowned by the popular and picturesque suburb of Parnell. On the river side the streets descend to the shore; the houses, most of them pretty wooden villas, standing each in its terraced garden grounds, embowered in rich foliage. On the land side a gully divides Parnell from the Domain. This serves as a public park and recreation ground for citizens of Auckland. It is a tract of original forest or bush, through whose bosky glades winding walks have been cut, leading up and down range and gully, furnished with seats and arbours and artificial accessories. Conjoined to the Domain are the gardens of the Acclimatization Society, which are beautiful and interesting on account of their botanical and zoological contents.
Rising at some distance behind the Domain, we catch a glimpse of Mount Hobson, upon whose sides nestles the suburb of the same name. To the right of it lies the Great South Road, whereon is the village of Newmarket, and beyond it again the scattered suburb of Epsom, and that gem of lovely hamlets, Remuera.
Our eyes, slowly travelling round to take in all these points, are now turned directly away from the harbour. Before us stretches a long road named Symonds Street, leading past the Supreme Court—a brick and stone building of considerable architectural pretension—past the wide cemetery, and allowing beyond a sight of the hospital in the valley below, on till the large suburb of Newton—hardly disconnected at all from the city proper—is reached.
In this direction is situated Government House, a large mansion of wood, standing in park-like grounds, where the English oak, the American maple, the Australian blue-gum, the semi-tropical palm, and the New Zealand kauri mingle their foliage together. Some distance further, and to the left of the road, rises Mount Eden. On one side of it is the gaol, a group of buildings surrounded by a wall and palisades, and situated in a scoria quarry. Among the spurs and declivities of the mount are many villas of the wealthier citizens, standing in well laid-out grounds, and making a very pleasing picture.
We now look right across the densest part of the city, from our first standpoint near St. Matthew's Church. Below is Queen Street, with the roofs of the various buildings already noticed in it. Beyond it there is a corresponding high ground to that on which we are, and behind that again is Freeman's Bay. On the crest of the eminence is St. Paul's "cathedral"—so styled; the principal Anglican church of the city. In the distance the breezy suburb of Ponsonby is pointed out to us, occupying high ground, from which is visible the winding valley of the Waitemata, stretching away up into the hills. Here and there can be seen the spires or belfries of numerous churches and chapels, for Auckland is an eminently religious city, and has temples and tabernacles for almost every Christian creed.
Our companion dilates upon the institutions of the city, which are highly creditable to so young a community, and are in advance of those of many European towns of equal population, that can trace back their history considerably further than Auckland's thirty-and-odd years. In matters ecclesiastical and educational the young city is indeed well endowed. There are two bishops, Roman and Anglican, a Presbytery, and governing bodies of other denominations. There is a College and Grammar School of the New Zealand University, common schools in the city, private schools of all sorts and sects, a training school and ship at Kohimarama, an establishment for young clergymen, and convent schools. There are asylums, orphanages, and refuges.
There are institutes and halls belonging to all kinds of societies: Young Men's Christian Association, Mechanics, Good Templars, Freemasons, Orangemen, Oddfellows, Foresters, etc. There is the Auckland Institute and Museum, the Acclimatization Society, Agricultural Society, Benevolent Societies, etc. There are Cricketing, Rowing, and Yachting Clubs. There is a mayor and City Council, with Harbour Board, Highway Board, Domain Board, and Improvement Commissions. There is the Supreme Court, the District Court, the Resident Magistrate's Court, and the Police Court. There are public and circulating libraries, two daily morning newspapers, an evening newspaper, two weekly newspapers, two weekly journals of fiction, and two monthly religious periodicals.
The city is lighted by gas supplied by a private company; and the water-supply is under municipal control. It returns three members to the House of Representatives, while Parnell and Newton each return one. So much and more does our cicerone favour us with, until he has, as he thinks, convinced us that Auckland is really the finest place of residence in the world.
We now pass down into the city again, taking a new route past the Northern Club, a lofty and unsightly building, whose members are notoriously hospitable, and much given to whist and euchre. Downhill a short distance, and we come to the Albert Barracks, where newly-arrived immigrants are housed, and where most of our sometime shipmates now are. They are comfortably quartered here for the present, but no incitement is held out to them to remain long, and every inducement is given them to get an engagement and quit as soon as may be. It seldom happens that there is any difficulty in this; usually, indeed, there is a rush to engage the new-comers, so much are servants and labourers, mechanics and artizans in request.
There have been times when would-be employers would go off in shore-boats to the immigrant ship in the harbour, and though not allowed on board, would make efforts to hire domestics and labourers at the side of the vessel. Again, when the government immigrants were landed, and were marched up from the wharf to the barracks, a mob of employers would escort the procession, endeavouring to hire helps, and with such success that sometimes the barracks were hardly needed at all. But such scenes are becoming rarer now, though there must continue, for many years to come, to be a run upon certain classes of immigrants, notably single girls for house-servants.
Turning into the barrack-yard, round which are the various buildings where the immigrants are temporarily housed, we find an animated scene before us. Here are assembled most of our immigrant shipmates, some few of whom have already got engagements and gone off. A considerable party of settlers and agents are now busily at work trying to hire the people they severally want; while the poor bewildered immigrants find themselves treated as though they were goods in an auction-room, and scarcely know whether they are standing on their heads or their heels.
It so happens that there is just now a great demand for agricultural and domestics, so that settlers are actually bidding against each other for the individuals they want to engage. Our ship-load was no special body of people, but a motley collection of men, women, and children from all parts of the old country. Among them are natives of Kent and of Cornwall, of Yorkshire and of Wales, of Inverness and of Galway.
Here are a couple of brothers whom we made special friends with on the voyage, young hardy Scots; let us see how they get on. We find them at a premium, surrounded by a little crowd of farmers from the Waikato, who each and all seem intent on hiring them. The lads do not wish to part if they can help it; and so, as to get one means to get both, the farmers are all the hotter in their pursuit of them. For these young men are just the right sort that are most wanted, having the thews and sinews and power of endurance so necessary for a rough life; having experience of sheep and cattle and agricultural work from their earliest infancy; having, in fact, all the qualities most essential and useful to the pioneer farmer. They come of the right race, too, as all the world knows—colonists especially—for honesty, sobriety, and patient industry.
What a change for them—from the inclement sky, the hostile winter, the rugged battle for life they have left behind them with their native Grampians, to this bright clime of everlasting summer, of strange fertility, to these sunshiny isles of beauty and plenty! Well, well, it is not a land of indolence either; the work demanded here is stern and hard and rough; but what a reward may be reaped in the end from earnest and unshrinking toil! No wonder if, in a year or two's time, our friends yonder will write to the dear ones they left at home, in the Perthshire glen, such an account as shall bear witness that they, at least, have found on earth the Peasant's Paradise!
There is hot and excited bargaining going on in the group of which the brothers form the centre. They are a little dazed, and do not venture to speak; but they are canny for all that, and bide their time. Amid the babel of voices that surrounds us on all sides, we catch a few utterances as follows:—
"Five shillings a day, and your tucker!"
"Five and threepence, lads!"
"He'll give you nothing but salt pork; try me at the same wage!"
"And you'll have to live on potatoes and pumpkins with him!"
"Five and six, and as much mutton as you want!"
"Too much, perhaps, and braxy at that!"
"Come, a cottage to yourselves, rations, and five and six a day!"
"Cottage! A tumble-down whare is what he means!"
"Fresh meat every day with me, boys—beef, mutton, and pork!"
"Yes; and he'll want you to work twelve hours!"
"Better engage with me at five and nine; I'll lodge you well, and feed you first chop!"
And so on and so on, until at last the brothers pluck up determination, and make choice of an employer. So our Caledonian friends begin to gather together their traps and make preparations to accompany their complaisant and well-satisfied boss to his farm on the banks of the Waikato. And an indescribable joy is in their hearts, for they are to receive six shillings and sixpence a day, and to be provided with comfortable lodging and lavish "tucker" withal; and though, no doubt, they will prove worthy of that high wage to their employer, yet what marvellous wealth it is, compared to the most they could have earned had they remained to toil upon the braes of Albyn!
Of course, very few of the other immigrants get such a wage as that. The two young Scots are the picked men of the crowd. Five shillings a day and "all found" is the ordinary wage for an agricultural, and though some are worth more, new-chums are generally held to be worth a good deal less for their first year. The distich—
"Eight hours' sleep and eight hours' play, Eight hours' work and eight bob a day,"
has been, and is, verified literally over and over again in New Zealand; but the "eight bob a day" cannot be called an ordinary wage. A man must be worth his salt and something over to get it, and will not do so unless labour is scarce and in much demand. Those who contract, or do work by the piece, often make as much and more if they are first-rate workers; and that kind of engagement is preferred by both employers and employes, as a rule.
All sorts of skilled labourers get high wages. Carpenters and blacksmiths will get ten and twelve shillings a day with their keep; and when they have saved a little money, and can go on the job by themselves, they may earn an advance on that.
I have already noticed the great demand that there is for female house-servants, and the high wages they can get. Girls cannot be relied on to stop in a situation very long, as they are sure to receive numerous matrimonial offers; hence there is a perpetual seeking after new domestics. Marriage is an institution that turns out uncommonly well here. There is no such thing as a descent to pauperism for those who will work. By little and little the working couple thrive and prosper, and as their family—New Zealand families run large, by the way—multiplies and grows up round them, they are able to enjoy the comforts of a competence they could never have attained at home. Some settlers, who originally came out, man and wife, as government immigrants drawn from the peasant class, are now wealthy proprietors of broad acres, flocks, and herds; and are able to send their sons to college and their daughters to finishing-schools; the whilom humble servant girl now riding in her carriage, and wearing silk and satin if she list. Such are the rewards that may tempt the peasant here. Difficulties there are in plenty, but they lessen year by year; while comfort and competence are certain in the end, and wealth even is possible to the industrious.
Occasionally it happens that among a body of immigrants are one or two who are decidedly unsuitable. There is an example among our particular ship-load. Here is a woman, purblind, decrepit, looking sixty years old at least, and, by some incomprehensible series of mistakes, she has found her way out here as a "single girl!" What was the Agent-General in London about, and what could the Dispatching Officer have been thinking of, when they let this ancient cripple pass them? Yet here she is, a "single girl" in immigrant parlance; and work she must get somehow and somewhere, for there are no poorhouses or paupers here as yet. But even she, useless to all seeming as she is, and unable to bear her part in the energetic industry of a new country, will find her billet. A good-natured farmer takes her off, judging that she may earn her keep in his kitchen, and if not—well! he is prosperous, and should be generous too. And so old granny toddles away amid the friendly laughter of the crowd, satisfied enough to find there is a niche even for her in our Canaan.
The great question that of late years has been continually asked of old colonials in England is, what are the prospects afforded by New Zealand to men of the middle classes? The answer is usually unfavourable, simply because many colonials cannot disassociate the idea of a gentleman adventurer from that of a scapegrace or ne'er-do-well. Secondly, they look at the questioner's present condition; and never take into consideration the power he may have of adapting himself to totally different circumstances. I think this view admits of considerable enlargement, and my experience has led me to believe that many a man, who struggles through life in the old country in some exacting and ill-paid sedentary occupation, might have been benefited by emigration. The colonies have been inundated with ruined spendthrifts, gamblers, drunkards, idle good-for-nothings, who have been induced to emigrate in the belief that that alone was a panacea for their moral diseases. Very very few of them have reformed or done any good, so that colonists are naturally prejudiced against their class, and look upon gentleman-new-chums with great suspicion. Again, some go out who are too delicate or sensitive to stand the roughnesses they are bound to undergo, and these break down in their apprenticeship the first year or two, and, if they can, go home again to speak evil of the colony ever afterwards.
One thing is certain, the educated man has the advantage over the uneducated, and his abler mind will sooner or later be of use to him, although his physique may be weaker than the other's. The gently-nurtured individual finds the preliminary trials of colonial life very hard indeed—he is heavily handicapped at the start—but there is no reason why he may not do well after a time. Gentlemen-immigrants usually think they may find work of a congenial sort, such as clerking, assisting in a store, or some occupation of the kind in the city. That is a mistake; while yet they are new-chums there is but one thing for them to do—to go away into the bush and labour with their hands. Of new-chums, only artisans are absorbed into the city population as a rule; all others have to look to manual labour of some kind, and generally up-country, for a means of subsistence. All the clerks, counter-jumpers, secretaries, and so on, are either old colonials, or colonists' sons. Very rare is it for a gentleman new-chum to find a berth of that sort, perhaps he may after he has become "colonized," but at first he will have to go straight away and fell bush, chop firewood, drive cattle, or tend pigs. About the best advice I ever heard given to middle-class men, who thought of emigrating to New Zealand, was couched in some such terms as these.
"What are your prospects here? If you have any, stop where you are. But if you have no particular profession, nothing better before you than laborious quill-driving and the like, at eighty pounds a year, and small probability of ever rising so high as two hundred, however many years you stick to the desk, or the yard-measure, then you may think of emigrating. If you are strong and able-bodied, somewhere between sixteen and twenty-six years of age—for over twenty-six men are generally too old to emigrate, I think—I say, emigrate by all means, for you will have a better chance of leading a healthy, happy, and fairly comfortable life. But you must throw all ideas of gentility to the winds, banish the thought of refinement, and prepare for a rough, hard struggle, and it may be a long one, too. You may please yourselves with the prospect of competence, comfort, and even luxury in the distance, but you must look at it through a lengthy vista of real hard work, difficulty, and bodily hardship. Success, in a greater or lesser degree, always follows patient industry at the Antipodes; it can scarcely be said to do so in Britain.
"Now, Il n'y a que le premier pas qui coute, and the worst time you will have is at the first; also, it is only for the start that you need advice, after you become 'colonized' you can look out for yourselves. If you have any particular acquaintance with a useful trade, so much the better; if you have not, and can do so, learn one before you go—carpentry, boat-building, blacksmithing, tinkering, cobbling; it will help you through wonderfully. It doesn't matter twopence how you go out, whether saloon, intermediate, or steerage, so far as your future prospects are concerned. If you can compass the means, go saloon—the extra comfort on a long voyage is well worth the extra price; besides, you might have some returning colonist as fellow-voyager, whose friendship would prove useful. When you land, bank any money you may have brought with you—whether it be ten pounds or ten thousand, I say the same—and resolve not to touch it, however you may be tempted, for two years at least. Then go about freely, get into the bush away from the city, make friends with every one everywhere, and let it be known that you are in search of work. Very soon you will hear of something or other. Take the job, the first that comes in your way, and stick to it till something better turns up. Don't be afraid of it whatever it is; don't imagine anything will hurt you or lower your dignity in the slightest so long as it is honest. Even if they make you a street-scavenger, remember that is better than loafing. In one year, or two, or three, you will be perfectly at home in the new life, and able to see, according to your abilities, the path that offers you the best prospect of the greatest success. During your new-chum days of apprenticeship you must consider yourself as a common peasant, like the men you will probably have to associate with; don't be disconcerted at that, just work on, and by-and-by you will get ahead of them. You will meet plenty of nice gentlemanly fellows in any part of New Zealand, and they will think all the better of you if you are earnestly and energetically industrious. Lastly, don't run away with the notion that you are going to jump into luck directly you land. Wages are high to the right people, but you are not among those at the outset. You may be satisfied if you do anything more than just earn your keep, for the first six or twelve months."
I think that that is, upon the whole, pretty sound advice for the class of men to whom it is addressed; but I will go further, and point out what advantages the average middle-class "young gentleman" may reasonably look forward to from emigration to New Zealand. In the first place, he may expect to enjoy robust health, more perfect and enjoyable than he could hope for if tied down to a counting-house stool in the dingy atmosphere of a city. He will exchange the dull monotony of a sedentary occupation in the chill and varying climate of Britain, for a life of vigorous action in a land whose climate is simply superb. When he gets through the briars that must necessarily be traversed at the outset, he will find himself happier, freer from anxiety, and, on the whole, doing better than he would be if he had remained at the old life. He will "feel his life in every limb," and, remote from the world, know naught of its cares. If he be anything of a man, before ten or a dozen years are gone he will find himself with a bit of land and a house of his own; he will be married, or able to marry, his earnings will suffice for existence, while every pound saved and invested in property will be growing, doubling, and quadrupling itself for his age and his children. There is something to work for and hope for here: independence, contentment, and competence. It is not a stern struggle from year's end to year's end, with naught at the finish but a paltry pension, dependence on others, or the workhouse. The gentleman-colonist we are talking of is working for a home, and, long before his term of life draws to its close, he will find himself, if not rich, at any rate, in the possession of more comfort and happiness than he could hope for in the old country.
I am not an emigration-tout, and have no interest in painting my picture in too vivid colours, and in these remarks I have transgressed against some of the ordinary colonial views on the subject; but I have done so with intention, because I consider them not entirely in the right. The colonist says—we don't want gentlemen here, we want MEN! But he forgets that the unfortunate individual he disparages has often more real manhood at bottom than the class below him. Therefore, the middle-class emigrant must remember the qualities most required in him—pluck, energy, and resolution.
I have met many middle-class men in the colony, and all contrived to bear out the view I have put forward by their own condition. Those who come to grief do so from their own failings and deficiencies. Some growl and grumble a little now and then, and think they would rather be back in England; but, when they reflect upon the condition they would probably be occupying at home in the ordinary course of things, they are forced to admit that they are better off. At any rate, such bitter and terrible distress as overtook so many thousands in Britain a year or two ago, could scarcely fall to the lot of the same people under any circumstances, if they were industrious colonists. But I have digressed inordinately, and must get back to Auckland forthwith.
The barracks are empty at last, and all our fellow-voyagers have found each his or her starting-point in the new life. Our own little party of cuddy-passengers is dispersed as well. Some have gone off to join friends in the country, some are gone on to distant parts of the colony, some have gone this way or that, scattering to work in all directions; only a couple of us are left, and it is time that we should begin to follow the plan we have conceived for ourselves.
Parting with shipmates, with the faces that have been so long familiar to us, seems to have severed the last link that bound us to the old country, the old home, and the old ways. We shall meet with many of them again, no doubt, but then the old "Englishness" will have disappeared, and we shall be at one with those who now are strangers to us, we too shall be New Zealanders. Henceforth all before us and around us is strange and new, an untried, unknown world. We are about to enter on a life totally different to that we have hitherto led, and it is a life that we have got to make ours for the time to come; for there is no thought in our minds of retreat, even if we find the unknown more distasteful than we think. But, courage! "Hope points before to guide us on our way," and, as yet, there is nothing in the prospect but what is bright and inspiriting, surely; nothing to diminish our youthful energy, nothing to daunt our British pluck! The past lies behind us, with its sweet and tender recollections, and with a softened sense of remembrance of those failures and sadnesses and bitternesses that are linked with them. Now our cry must be "Forward!" for a page in the book of our lives is completely turned down, and we may imagine there is endorsed upon it, "Sacred to the memory of auld lang syne!"
[Footnote 1: 1882. The railway now runs northward to Helensville, connecting Auckland with the Kaipara; and is being pushed on to Whangarei. To the south, it penetrates far into the Waikato country, and it is only a question of a few years before Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, and Napier will be joined by rail.]
[Footnote 2: 1882. During the last year or two, there has been some depression in New Zealand, and, for the first time in her history, many labourers have had difficulty in getting work. But that crisis is now past, and things are rapidly returning—as they were bound to do—to former conditions, such as I have described.]
GOING UP COUNTRY.
I and my last remaining shipmate certainly came out here without any very clear idea of what we were going to do. We came to make our fortunes, of course, after the manner of all new-chums, but as to how we were to set about it, and what were to be the first steps we should take, we had the very vaguest notion.
However, our condition of existence as new-chums sat very lightly upon us. Hope! We were all hope; we were hope incarnate! We felt that we were bound to win. It seemed, though, that the beginning must be made in some fashion that was, to say the least of it, unpleasant, now that we were face to face with the reality. Plenty of work offered, but none of it seemed to be of a particularly engaging kind; and, moreover, the wage offered us was extremely paltry, so we considered. For we belonged to that much maligned middle-class, which, in the chrysalis or new-chum stage, is so greatly contemned by colonists.
But it happened that, long long ago, a certain schoolfellow of ours had gone forth into the colonial world. He was in the sixth form when we were in the first, or thereabouts; but, as his family and ours were neighbours in the old home, there had been enough intimacy between us. It was owing to his letters home that we had determined on emigration. He had been apprised of our coming, so now we were not surprised to receive a message from him through a resident in Auckland. This was an invitation to join him at a distant settlement called Te Pahi, there to make a beginning at pioneer farm work, and see what might turn up.
We found on inquiry that little or nothing was known in Auckland of Te Pahi. It was a new township in the Kaipara district, lying sixty or eighty miles north of Auckland. That was about the sum of what we could learn of our destination, except that there were very few settlers in the Kaipara, and that communication between it and Auckland was not very good. Somewhat later than this date—in fact, to be precise, in 1875—an Auckland newspaper wrote of the Kaipara under the title of Terra Incognita. So that when we decided on going there, we felt that we were about to penetrate an almost unexplored country. But we found out what were the means of transit, and prepared to set out without further delay.