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CHAPTER III.
    Lyttelton and Christchurch.—Call on Our Friends. —Visit Malvern Hill.

Port Lyttelton at the time was but an insignificant town in comparison with what it has since become, although from its confined situation it is unlikely ever to attain to any great size. It is the port of the capital of the province, Christchurch, from which it is separated by a chain of hills. A rough and somewhat dangerous cart road led from it to the capital, along and around the hill side, which was twelve miles in length, but there was also a bridle track direct across the hills, by which the distance was reduced by one-half. This path, however, could be used only by pedestrians, or on horseback with difficulty. In 1862 it was decided to connect the port with Christchurch by a railway, cutting a tunnel through the hill, and the project was completed in 1866. In 1859 Port Lyttelton was built entirely of wood, the houses being for the most part single-storeyed. There was a main street running parallel to the beach, with two or three branch streets, running up the hill therefrom; there were a few shops, several stores, stables, and small inns. The harbour was an open roadstead, and possessed but a primitive sort of quay or landing place for boats and vessels of small tonnage.

We were invited on shore by the Leach\'s sheep-farming cousin, who had come to meet them, but we returned on board to sleep. The following morning, getting our luggage together, we all four started for Christchurch on hired horses, sending our kit round the hill by cart. The climb up the bridle path (we had to lead the horses) was a stiff pull for fellows just out of a three months\' voyage, but we were repaid on reaching the top by the magnificent panorama opened out before us. To our right was the open ocean, blue and calm, dotted with a few white sails; to the left the long low range of hills encircling the bay, and on a pinnacle of which we stood. At our feet lay Christchurch, with its few well-laid-out streets and white houses, young farms, fences, trees, gardens, and all the numerous signs of a prosperous and thriving young colony, the little river Avon winding its peaceful way to the sea and encircling[Pg 15] the infant town like a silver cord, and the muddy Heathcote with its few white sails and heavily-laden barges. While beyond stretched away for sixty miles the splendid Canterbury Plains bounded in their turn by the southern Alps with their towering snow-capped peaks and glaciers sparkling in the sun; the patches of black pine forest lying sombre and dark against the mountain sides, in contrast with the purple, blue, and gray of the receding gorges, changing, smiling, or frowning as clouds or sunshine passed over them. All this heightened by the extremely rare atmosphere of New Zealand, in which every detail stood out at even that distance clear and distinct, made up a picture which for beauty and grandeur can rarely be equalled in the world.

Upon arrival at Christchurch we put up at a neat little inn on the outskirts of the town, called Rule\'s accommodation house. It was a picture of neatness, cleanliness, and comfort. We found it occupied by several squatters of what might be called the better class, who, on their occasional business visits to Christchurch, preferred a quiet establishment to the larger and more noisy hotels, of which the town possessed two.

These gentlemen were clothed in cord breeches and high boots, with guernsey smock frocks, in which costume they appeared to live. English coats and collars and light boots were luxuries unknown or contemned by these hardy sons of the bush, whom we found very pleasant company, but who, it was apparent to us before we were many minutes in their society, regarded us as very raw material indeed. According to bush custom it was usual to dub all fresh arrivals "new chums" until they had satisfactorily passed certain ordeals in bush life. They should be able to ride a buckjumper, or, at any rate, hold on till the saddle went, use a stockwhip, cut up and light a pipe of tobacco with a single wax vesta while riding full speed in the teeth of a sou\'-wester, and be ready and competent to take a hand at any manual labour going.

After dinner some of our new acquaintances entertained us with some miraculous tales of bush life, while others looked carelessly on to see how far we could be gulled with impunity. An amusing incident, however, occurred presently which rapidly increased their respect for the raw material. C—— was a young giant, six feet three in his stockings, and the last man to put up with an indignity.[Pg 16] One of the party—a rough, vulgar sort of fellow, who had been romancing considerably, and who evidently was not on the most cordial terms with the rest of the company—carried his rudeness so far as to drop into C——\'s seat when the latter had vacated it for a moment. On his return C—— asked him to leave it, which the fellow refused to do. C—— put his hand on his collar. "Now," said he, "get out! Once, twice, three times"—and at the last word he lifted the chap bodily and threw him over the table, whence he fell heavily on the floor. He was thoroughly cowed, and with a few oaths left the room. It needed only such an incident as this to put us on the friendliest terms with them all, and we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and gathered much information.

The Arrival of Lapworth

The Arrival of Lapworth.

The following morning, whilst waiting for breakfast, sitting out on the grass in front of the house, we heard a stampede coming along the road from the direction of the Fort, and presently there hove in sight Lapworth astride a hired nag, coming ahead at a gallop, one hand grasping the mane and the other the crupper, while stirrups and reins were flying in the wind. In his rear were Bob Stavelly, third mate, and the boatswain, astride another animal, Bob steering, and the boatswain holding on, seemingly by the tail. Lapworth, a quarter of a mile off, was shouting "Stop her! Stop her!" but the mare needed no assistance; she evidently understood where she was required to go, and decided to do it in her own time and way. Galloping to the grass plot on which we were standing she suddenly stopped short and deposited Lapworth ignominiously at our feet. The other animal followed suit, but did not succeed in clearing itself, and after some tacking Bob and the boatswain got under weigh again and steered for the "White Hart," where they were bent on a spree.

Christchurch at this time was about fourteen years in existence. It consisted of only a few hundred houses, chiefly single-storeyed and entirely constructed of timber. The streets were well laid out, broad, and on the principle of the best modern towns, but few of them were as yet made or metalled. There were not many buildings of architectural pretensions, but all were characterised by an air of comfort, neatness, and suitability, and it was apparent the rapid strides the young colony was making would ere long place it high in the rank of its order. There were two churches, a town hall, used on occasion as court house, [Pg 17]ball-room, or theatre; three hotels, some very presentable shops and stores, and a few particularly neat and handsome residences standing in luxuriant grounds, such as those occupied by the Superintendent, Bishop, Judge, etc. The suburbs were extending on all sides with the fencing in of farms, erection of homesteads, and conversion of the native soil into land suitable for growing English corn and grass.

Through the rising city wound the little river Avon, only twenty to thirty yards in width, spanned by two wooden bridges, and a couple of mills had also been erected upon it. The river was only about fifteen miles from its source to the sea, and at the time to which I refer was almost covered with watercress. This plant was not indigenous; it was introduced a few years before by a colonist, who was so partial to the vegetable that he brought some roots from home with him, and planted them near the source of the river, where he squatted. The watercress took so kindly to the soil that it had now covered the river to its mouth, and the Colonial Government were put to very considerable annual expense to remove it.

As I have already stated, we had been provided with introductions to some of the most influential families in Christchurch—namely, the Bishop, the Chief Justice Gresson, and some others. The following day we made our calls and were most hospitably received, especially by Mr. and Mrs. Gresson, who from that time during my stay in New Zealand were my constant and valued friends. We were introduced to many of the best up-country people, and a month was passed pleasantly visiting about to enable us to decide on what line we would take up as a commencement. We possessed very little money, so a life of service in some form was an absolute necessity at the beginning.

While awaiting events, C—— and I were invited by young Mr. H——, son of the Bishop, to visit his sheep station at Malvern Hills, some forty-five miles distant across the plains, where we could see what station life was like and have some sport after wild pigs, ducks, etc. Procuring the loan of a couple of horses we all started early one morning, what change of clothes we needed being strapped with our blankets before and behind on our saddles, and I carried a gun.

It was an exhilarating ride in the cool, fragrant atmosphere, although a description would lead one to think it would be monotonous to ride forty-five miles over an almost perfectly flat plain, with no more than an occasional shepherd\'s[Pg 18] hut, a mob of sheep, or an isolated homestead to break the surrounding view. The plain was almost bare of vegetation, beyond short yellow grass here and there burnt in patches, and now and then a solitary cabbage tree (a kind of palm) dotted the wide expanse. Beyond a few paradise ducks feeding on the burnt patches, or an occasional family of wild pigs, we met with no animal life. Quail used to be abundant, but the run fires were fast destroying them. We had before us the nearing view of the Malvern Hills, the sloping pine forests and scrub, with the long, undulating spurs running back to the foot of great snow-clad peaks.

The station, or homestead, stood on a plateau some fifty feet above the plain; it consisted of two huts, mud-walled and thatched with snow grass. One of these contained the general kitchen and sleeping room for the station hands, the other was the residence of the squatter and his overseer. Behind these there were a wool shed for clipping and pressing the wool, with sheep yards attached, a stockyard for cattle, and a fenced in paddock in which a few station hacks were kept for daily use.

On arrival our first duty was to remove saddles, bridles, and swags and lead the horses to some good pasture, where they were each tethered to a tussock by thirty yards of fine hemp rope, which they carried tied about their necks. Then, after a rough wash in the open, we were soon gathered round a hospitable table in the kitchen, where all sat in common to a substantial meal of mutton, bread, and tea, the standard food with little variation of a squatter\'s homestead.

Night had closed in by now, and we were soon glad to retire to our blankets, and the sweet fresh beds of Manuka twigs laid on the floor of Harper\'s hut, for the temporary accommodation of us visitors. We slept like tops till roused at daybreak to breakfast, after which the forenoon was spent in being shown over the station and in a climb to the forests, where we saw the pine trees being felled, and split up into posts and rails. After the midday meal a pig hunt was organised, and a few animals were accounted for, falling chiefly to Harper\'s rifle. (Pig hunting I will specially refer to later on.) We passed a pleasant and instructive week at Malvern Station, taking a hand in all the routine work, riding after the stock, working in the bush, and occasionally taking a cross-country ride of fifteen or twenty miles to visit a neighbouring station.
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