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HOME > Short Stories > Five Years in New Zealand 1859 to 1864 > CHAPTER XX.
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    Decide to go to India—Visit Melbourne, Etc.

For the following six months I kept steadily to work. I was gradually adding to my stock of sheep, and had nothing occurred to disturb me I should doubtless have continued at work and in time have become a veritable squatter. I was able to command constant employment in any colonial capacity, and had been more than once offered the overseership of a run, but the old distaste for the life of a sheep-farmer was as strong as ever.

It was in the month of May, 1864, when I received a letter from my brother in Bombay, saying that there were excellent openings in the engineering line there, to which he had interest enough to help me, and he pressed me to go to Bombay and try my luck. My brother was then representative of a large mercantile firm at Bombay.

I think neither he nor the others at home had ever divested themselves of the idea that I was not succeeding, and never would succeed in New Zealand, because I had not at once made a fortune out of nothing, or discovered gold for the picking up. Of course, they were not right. I had, considering my youth and ignorance on going out to New Zealand, done admirably. It was necessary to undergo a term of probation and education for the work of a sheep-farmer or any other in the Colony, and this I had not only accomplished, but I had been, and was, making money and a living, and had fair prospects before me should I decide to adopt the life of a squatter permanently. I consulted my friends and some of them were for following my brother\'s advice, but something within myself kept prompting me in the same direction, and I began to feel more and more that I had mistaken my vocation, and that I was bound to try before it would be too late to get into the swing of the more congenial employment for which I was longing.

The wandering spirit, too, mastered me once more, and I wished now to see India and all I had heard and read of that wonderful land, as I had originally desired to see New Zealand.

I did not decide hastily. I was aware that my leaving New Zealand now would to some extent throw me back,[Pg 107] if at any time in the future I decided to return, but I was still very young, not yet 22, and a year or two would make very little difference, and I knew that if I returned to New Zealand I could always command immediate employment. I decided at length to see India at any rate, and I wrote to my brother to that effect.

The disposal of my sheep, horses, and other small possessions, was soon accomplished, and one fine morning in May 1864, I found myself at Port Lyttelton, accompanied by a number of old chums who had come to see me off by the steamboat to Dunedin, from whence I was to proceed by mail to Melbourne, and from thence to Bombay by the P. and O.

I felt sad indeed to look my last (it might be for ever) on the shores of Canterbury, where I had passed five happy years, endeared to me all the more on account of the varied and adventurous life I had led, and the good friends and companions I was leaving behind, and I leaned on the bulwarks of the little steamer as we passed out of the lovely bay and saw the shepherd\'s hut, high up on the cliff, where we wanderers from the ship five years before had been entertained by the Scotch housewife to our first New Zealand dinner, then on to where we visited the whalers and the head to which we rowed in the Captain\'s gig. The whole scene arose before me afresh; where were we all scattered to? I longed to do it all over again, and be with the old mates; and here I was, a lonely wanderer once more, leaving all to go away to begin a new life in a strange land. It was not easy, but I tried hard to think I was doing right.

By the time we passed out of the Heads it had grown dark, and my reverie was broken by the supper bell, and Burton (a friend who was going to Australia on a pleasure trip) telling me to rouse up, have some food, and make myself pleasant. How carefully I followed his advice during the next six weeks!

We reached Dunedin the following evening and had to remain there for a few days for the departure of the Melbourne mail boat. This time Burton and I contrived to spend very pleasantly. He was a wealthy young squatter, and I had a good sum of money with me, in fact, I was becoming a bit reckless; but I could not have foreseen that an accident would retain me far longer on the voyage to India than I supposed, and I saw little harm in enjoying myself with the money I had earned and saved. What kind of guardian[Pg 108] angel was in charge of me from this time I cannot say, but he must have been an excessively pleasant and jolly one, for under his guidance I enjoyed a most delightful time.

Dunedin had improved marvellously since I had last seen it; it was already a town of considerable pretensions and possessed a theatre and several good hotels. On the fourth day we left for Melbourne in the s.s. "Alhambra," and now I believed that I had done with New Zealand for good and all, but I was mistaken.

After three days at sea we encountered south of Tasmania a terrific gale during which the shaft of the screw was broken, and the Captain had no resource but to return to Dunedin under sail, an operation which occupied seven days, to the great disgust of all on board.

At Dunedin we were again delayed for three days till another boat started which took us to Melbourne.

The voyage was pleasant and we steamed in nearly a calm sea close along the Tasmanian coast and through the Bass Straits, sighting land all the way from thence. Tasmania presented quite an English appearance after New Zealand, and we could trace the neat towns and well-wooded country dotted with homesteads and farms.

Melbourne possesses a very fine and well protected harbour, but the surroundings sadly lacked the native beauty of New Zealand. The countries present very different aspects to the new-comer; while New Zealand can boast of some of the wildest and grandest scenery in the world, that of New South Wales is almost the reverse, being homely and of a natural park-like appearance, which, although beautiful in a certain sense, is monotonous after the wild contrasts of plains and mountain, forests and rivers of New Zealand.

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