STATION AMUSEMENTS IN NEW ZEALAND.* No book of all the
multitude that have been written about colonial life, made people in England understand it so well as Lady Barker's Station Life in New Zealand. It told them exactly the things which they wanted to know, in the pleasantest, brightest, cheeriest way ; it made the interests, the occupations, the anxieties, the resources of the distant island colony as real as our own, and as near as the next street, and it fixed attention upon two persons as effectually as any novel could do. Who does not remember the great snowstorm of 1867, as Lady Barker has told the story of it ?—taking us with her through every phase, from surprise at the persistency of the snowflakes, to the despair of the great white burial, the famine within the house, the ruin without, and the terrible revelation of destruction among the "mobs" of starved and smothered sheep. The occupations and interests of the successive seasons, the healthful exercise, the beautiful climate, in spite of its high winds and the calamity of the snow, the constant business without overwork, the charm and refinement of the home picture which Lady Barker painted so delicately, so simply, set the book apart from all preceding colonial books, and made New Zealand decidedly the favourite among the colonies in popular imagination.
Since the author's return to England she has been frequently asked, "How did you amuse yourself up at the station ?" Her present work is a comprehensive answer to the general question, an account of the simple pleasures which " were composed of a solid layer of usefulness underneath the froth of fun and frolic," and which might indeed be classed under the head of play rather than work. In that probably lay the secret of flee amusingness of these amusements ; they are so real, and so reasonable. Boredom seems to be an unknown element in lives of this kind, and animal spirits, the power of enjoying, to be always present, and pre- dominant over all care, anxiety, and vexation. If Lady Barker had not included among station Amusements the story of how they bought " a run," which turned out a hopeless loss to them, and was a disgraceful swindle on the part of the person who sold the run, we should have thought it out of place ; but she laughs at it so heartily, she describes their great expectations, the alacrity with which they set off to inspect their new property, the difficulties at once dangerous and absurd which they encountered, the utter im- possibility of doing anything with the Lake-Wanaka run when they got there, with such drollery, that it is impossible not to laugh at a robbery which the victims make so amusing. The whole scene of the purchase is admirably humorous, as good as the interview between Martin Chuzzlewit and Scadder in the Eden Land Office at New York ; with Lady Barker in the background, delighted when her husband's use of " that sociable little word ' we," in his proposal to "go up to the run, and look round it,"
revealed to her that she was to go too, though she adds, she had prudently concealed from the company that she had ever had any misgivings on that point:-
That won't do at all, my dear fellow," said the owner of the run ; I am going to England by the next mail steamer, which you know sails next week, and the reason I am literally giving away my property is
that I don't want any suspense or bother. Take it or leave it, just as you like. There's Wilkinson, and Fairwright, and a lot of others all clamouring for the refusal of it, and I've only waited to see if. you really
wanted it before closing with Fairwright. He is walking about with a
cheque all ready filled up in his pocket, and only begging and praying me to let him have the run on my own terms. Why, you might be weatherbound or kept there for a month, and what shall I do then ?
No, it's all just as I've told you, and you can call it your own to-morrow,
but I can't possibly wait for you to go and look at it.' No words of mine can give any idea of the tone of scorn in which our guest pro-
nounced these last three words; as if looking at an intended purchase was at once the meanest and most absurd thing in the world. F-- seemed half ashamed of himself for his proposal, but still he urged that ho never liked to take a leap in the dark, backing up his opinion by several world-revered adages.—' That's all very fine,' chimed in our precious business adviser. 'but this transaction can hardly be said to be in the dark ; here are the plans and the Government lease and the
transfer deeds, all regular and ready.' With this he produced the plans, and it was all up with us. Who does not know the peculiar smell of tracing-paper, with its suggestions of ownership? When these
fresh and crackling drawings were opened before us, they resembled nothing so much as a veritable paradise. There shone the lakea brilliant patch of cobalt blue—hordered by outlines of vivid green pasture and belts of timber. Here and there, on the outskirts, we read the words, 'proposed townships,' building lots,' probable gold- fields,' saw-mills.' F— laid his hand down over a large wash of light-green paint and asked, • Now, what sort of country is this ; really and truly, you know ?" First-class sheep country, I give you my word," replied the owner, eagerly ; only wants to be stocked for a year or two.' " Nothing but Scadder's toothpick is wanting to the picture !
• Station Amusements in Sew Zealand. By Lady Barker. Author of " Station Life in New Zealand," "Stories About," "Ribbon Stories," :te. London : William Runt and Co.
The journey to Lake Wanaka, and what that deshble property looked in reality, form perhaps the most amusing prtion of the
book. Its new owners must have rather envied MI Fairwright, who was still walking about with his cheque in hispocket. A. picnic in the bush, with materials for dinner and to carried on one's saddle-bow, must be one of the pleasantest dogs in the- world. Lady Barker makes one feel the elation, thedelight of the beautiful scenery, of the wooded cliffs, the exquis.e shrubs, the ferns such as we cannot at all realise, the bush-coveed moun- tains rising to the steep, naked cliffs, which stand out'rom the glacier region of the range that forms the beckon() of the beautiful middle island ; and then she tell how-
vain it would be to try to convey an idea of the atmephere around, quivering in a summer haze in the valley beneat, and stirred to the faintest summer wind-sighs as it moved amon; the pines and bushes overhead. " Its lightness was its most strking• peculiarity. You felt as if your lungs could never weary of in- haling deep breaths of such an air ; warm without oppression, cool without a chill. I can find nothing but paradoxes to descrne- it. One's muscles might get tired, and need rest, but the usul depression and weariness attending over-exertion could not exis in such an atmosphere. One felt like a happy child, pleased at nothing, content to exist where existence was a pleasure." Even the north-westerly gales, which blow with such tremendous force that neither man nor beast can face them, are no more than trifling drawbacks to such a climate as this, for they are always succeeded by delicious rain and sparkling weather. Sport is scarce—indeed,, in the strict sense of the word, it does not exist—but Lady Barker- tells some capital stories of pig-stalking, and gives us a delightful' account of how they went eel-fishing, and how the preparations- were in themselves alarming, because the first enemies to be over-
come were " Spaniards " and " Wild Irishmen." The first name- is given to an extraordinary vegetable production, " like a gigantic-- artichoke, with slender instead of broad leaves, set round in dense, compact order." As these formidable creatures are from four to six feet in circumference, and usually two feet high, as- their leaves are as firm as bayonets, and taper to the fine- ness of a needle, drawing blood at the least touch, it is
not surprising that a fall into a Spaniard is to be avoided with all possible care. The " Wild Irishman" is a strag- gling, sturdy bramble, which grows among the Spaniards in- clumps, ready to catch and scratch you if you avoid his neigh- bours. How they did not escape either, how she sat for hours with Nettle, her dog, in intense darkness, and silence as deep,. and warned by the gentlemen that " the eels are all eyes and ears- at this hour ; they can almost hear you breathe"; how they all
got cross, and cold, and sleepy ; and how, when I returned, and asked, " How many have you caught?" she replied, "None, I am- happy to say ; what could Nettle and I have done with the hor- rible things, if we had caught any ?" and the terrors of the return,. are told in a chapter full of the pleasantest humour. On the sub- ject of domestic grievances Lady Barker is delightful ; she must
have been the Mark Tapley of " station " life, making everything easy and pleasant to everyone, and extracting fun from everything.
If anybody could get sunbeams out of cucumbers, it certainly must be- the lady who tells us about the "Swaggers," about bullock sledges, about the natural Montague Busse, and F—'s new patent sledge,. on which she consented to become a " passenger ;" about her amateur servants, in particular one Captain George, a gallant young ex-dragoon, who had gone out to New Zealand to try whether he could live on £120 a year, and who volunteered his services on a certain occasion when Lady Barker flattered herself she had made some very artful arrangements to provide the family with something to eat during the servants' absence. With what zest she tells the story of that week, and what an awful time she must have had of it, while the pigs were feasting on Captain. George's failures—who used suddenly to cease to take any interest in his occupation, and seating himself sideways on the kitchen dresser, begin to whistle through a whole opera, or repeat pages of poetry—and the gentlemen fell on all her stores, and devoured them. One of the best chapters in the book contains some sketches of "servantgalism " which are infinitely amusing. Lois.
and Euphemia, Lady Barker's maids, were discovered by her one morning sobbing in one another's arms. The kettle was singing,
the sun was shining, everything was bright, snug, and comfort- able :— " What in the world has happened ? ' I gasped, really frightened.
Nothing, mem ; its only them sheep,' sobbed Euphemia, ' calling like. They always makes me cry.'—' Is it possible you are crying about that?'—' Yes, mem, yes! ' said Euphemia, in heart-broken accents, clasping Lois, who was howling, closer to her heart. 'It's terrible to. hear 'em. They keeps calling and answering each other, and that
makes us think of our home and friends.' Now both these girls had starved as factory-hands all their lives, and had certainly never seen a sheep until they came to Now Zealand. What nonsense !' I cried, half laughing and half angry. 'You can't be in earnest. You must both be ill ; let me give you each a good dose of medicine.' I said this encouragingly, for there was nothing in the world Euphemia liked so much as good substantial physic, and the only thing I ever needed to keep locked up from her was the medicine drawer. Euphemia seemed touched and grateful, and her face brightened up directly, but Lois looked up with her frightful little face more ugly than usual, as she said spitefully, Physic won't make them nasty sheep hold their tongues. I'm sure this isn't the place for me to find my luck, so I'd rather go, if you please, mom. I've prospected up every one of them gullies and never seen the colour yet, so it ain't any good my stopping.'
Why did you think you should find gold here ?' I asked.—' Because they do say it lies in all these mountain streams,' she answered, sullenly, and I'm always dreaming of nuggets. Not that a girl with my face and figure wants " dust " to sot her off, however. But if it's all the same to you, mem, I'd rather leave when Euphemia does.'—' Are you going, then,' I inquired, turning to my pale-faced cook, who actually coloured a little as she answered, ' Well, mem, you see, Moffat says he's got his window-frames in now, and he'll glass them the very first chance, and I think it '11 be more company for me on Saddler's Flat. So, if you'll please to send me down in the dray, I should be obliged.' "
The successors of Euphemia and Lois are equally amusing, and the household troubles are all put in a ludicrous aspect, which robs them of their misery?. Lady Barker is reticent upon the subject of the efforts which she made for the benefit of the people among whom she lived, and would evidently have told us still less about the Sunday meetings at her house, and her instruction of the shepherds and stockmen, if she had not been tempted into letting us get peeps at the oddities of character and manners which afforded so much entertainment to herself. Concerning animals she is a charming writer, full of sympathy and kindness for them, not only in a general way, but with the particular individual appreciation of their characters and manners which comes of understanding as well as loving them, and which affords scope to her sense of humour. This volume introduces us to several estim- able dogs, to a monkey named Joey, whose acquaintance we should have much liked to cultivate; and to Kitty, a hen, whose history does her mistress great credit.