Letter from H.A. Wilson
to Donald McLean
dated 9th. May 1857.
9th. May 1857.
My dear Son,
There is no need for your blaming yourself so much as you do for not writing oftener. I quite understand how much you have to do, and how closely you are kept at it. Your two letters of March, and April, came duly to hand; and it is my turn now to blame myself for not writing, or rather answering them long ago. But the truth is that I have been here and there and everywhere with the Lady Louisa and His Grace. My old bones are nearly rattled out of my skin. Week after week passed doing nothing but paying and receiving visits; so that post after post slipped by without a line from me to anyone. Now I find I must make up the way.
Three weeks ago the Captain and Louisa started for Wanganui; got as far as Tataraimaka, and spent the next day on to Humaroa. Fortunately Mrs. McKeckney and Atty Wicksteed took it into their heads to go that day's journey with them. On arriving at the
Humaroa swamps Louisa was quite sure it was not the one they had crossed on coming this way. But the Captain maintained "all was right." He passed over without much splashing, but not so poor Louisa, whose horse took fright, and plunged her head over heels into the mud. Fortunately your friend McKeckney was near her, and pulled her out; for the Captain had gone on with the luggage horse, without looking behind him. The poor girl was completely soaked to the skin. They proceeded to Mrs. King's, where "Mrs. William" lent her a roundabout. But the lady's scanty wardrobe did not afford many other necessary articles of dress. The consequence was that Louisa took a very severe cold; was obliged to return to Rimini's, where she remained for two days, in a high fever, and was then brought back to me by easy stages. I was very fearful of her for some time, but I am happy to say she left us yesterday, quite well, by the "Venture", - good skipper Taylor taking charge of her. You would be very much pleased with her. She has grown to be a really very fine young woman, not at all handsome, too much like the father to be that; but is a very showey lady-like girl. She has made many friends here, as she was universally liked. The Captain did not return to New Plymouth; only came as far as Mr. Good's, and gave her into Mr. Wilson's charge. John came up
from Wanganui, to guide his father back. He left Tataraimaka on the Wednesday; and was at Wiritoa on Saturday!! No bad going for a man of 70 !!! Few in the Old Country would do as much, over such roads as ours, and with only Maori accommodation.
Mrs. Campbell writes me that His Grace has returned, looking so fat and well, that she must take a trip next to get a little of the New Plymouth fat on her own bones. I wish she may keep to her word. How delighted we would be to see her. By Louisa's being here, our old acquaintance has been renewed with the Sam Kings. We have been upon speaking terms for the last year, but neither would be the first to visit. When Louisa returned ill, they came to see her. That broke the ice, and now we are all right again. I am glad if it, for I cannot bear to be on bad terms with anybody. We can never again be what we were; but there is no need for that. We spent a very agreeable evening there last week.
You will, I am sure, be pleased to hear that James Ritchie promises to be all right now. He, with Mr. Flight, Mr. Whiteley, Willie Hood, and young Honemeyer, all took the "Pledge" a month ago. No one can be more fully convinced of the crime than he is, when the fit is over; and I am sure that no one more sincerely repents the deed than he does. That it is a disease, I am fully
convinced; for one single glass will bring on the longing, and if once this begins, there is no stopping it until it has run its deadly race. He is a kind father, and an affectionate husband; and his wife is equal to him in this respect. They are a happy domestic couple as can possibly be, when the curse is not on him; and let us hope that his having taken the Pledge, may with the helping of Providence, make him what we all wish him to be.
Mr. McKeckney, whom you got Mr. Bruce to introduce to us, has turned out just such a one as I know you will always like your old mother to be acquainted with. He is a great favourite with all the best of the folks here. He sings beautifully. It is a great treat to hear him and Ritchie show off in some of the sweet melodies of Scotland. Some of the young ladies are sadly disappointed at finding he is an engaged man. He has shown us the picture of his lady-love. She is a nice lady-like looking young person. He will get her out as soon as he sees his way quite clear. He speaks Spanish! which is a great treat to me to have a few words with him in that noble language.
So you really think of paying your Highland Home a visit some of these days. How I should like to be by your side, just to see the happy faces when they look upon you and your dear boy. With the present route
of steamers you might get over the 16,000 miles in about two months. I have letters from London which have the post-mark of the 10th. December, and the Auckland one of the 25th. February. This is quick enough in all conscience. I trust that for your own sake, and the sake of dear little Douglas, that you will be able to go. But I strongly suspect that New Zealand will never spare you; nor do I think you have much chance of getting away while Governor Brown remains in office. What a sad misfortune the loss of the William Denny has been. We are getting our letters and news from Home so comfortably. Of course there will be another got in her place. If not, it will be very provoking to see Melbourne and Sydney getting their news in two months, and poor New Zealand obliged to wait for the old story of three or four.
The "Taranaki Institute" is getting on famously; first rate lectures every week. Sharland gives one on Music, with illustrations by first rate performers, this evening. I am sorry I cannot attend, as my Gudeman is not well enough to go in; and I do not think it right for me to leave him alone. He has not been very well for the last week; and Doctor-like, would not lay up; but thought to drive it off. At last he has been obliged to submit to my better judgment, and keep his bed for the last two days. He is now very much better; and is busy
writing his Lecture for next week. He is giving the good folks of New Plymouth an account of his visit to the coast of Morroco; his attendance on the Emperor, and the Seralio. This will be No. 3; and he will have at least three more before he has done. The Lectures are very well attended; and so is the Reading -room. They are collecting a very good library. Most of the books are donations. Sam King has been most liberal in his gift of Maps and books; and many others have followed his example. More ladies than gentlemen attend on the Lecture nights. Some of our would-be "Big Wigs" will have nothing to do with it, fearing they might have, some of these nights, to sit on the same bench with the Misses Crocker, or Lukemans !!!
Mr. Imlay has put up his famous Iron House. It is 62 feet by 31; erected on a good solid foundation. The lower storey is to be stores; and the upper one is all in one noble room, in which they have had two Balls, one a public, and the other a private one. We joined the first, and were invited to the second, but did not go; not liking the way in which it was got up. A few wanted to have a very select affair; but made a botch of it. All they seemed to think of was getting a good supper; and they had such an enormous one that the Ball in future will
be known by the "Gormondising" Ball. And this is what they consider a genteel supper!! poor souls! how little they have seen of the Court of the world!! Mrs. Standish is now the head leader of our Fashionable doings!! So you will see that we are in glorious hands. Her two sons consider themselves "ne plus ultras" of all that is tip-top. It is well the poor lads think so, for no one but the mother and themselves are of that opinion. The eldest one must needs think himself in love with one of the Miss Murrang's; and she played off on him in good style. But the last steamer brought the new Doctor, who has been at once placed in poor Frank's shoes. The goose of a fellow might have seen that it would be so. To me they are as disagreeable lads as can be. I am quite out of their good graces, for I never ask them to my house. I am not so hard-pushed for Society, as to be obliged to put up with such.
I am delighted at the prospect of seeing you soon; and I only hope it will not be a flying visit. The Scotch ale and Amontilliado still waits your coming; and a bottle of prime "Mountain Dew" in the bargain. How we did regret you were not here at the same time with the Duke". What long stories of old times there would have been. I took care to tell him now nearly he had finished you at Wanganui, with his long face, and longer dismal
stories, during your illness. Many a hearty laugh we had over the remembrance. I think I shall direct this to Auckland, or elsewhere; as there is no knowing where you will be found for the next three months. I only hope to hear from you now and then, that I may know your whereabouts. I hope to write to good old Mr. Strang by the next steamer, to know about my grandson. You will be roaming about, goodness knows where; and Isabella Thurston away, so that I must trouble Grandpapa. We are anxious for the next mail, to hear what Turton intends doing with regard to Canting old Sam. By the last mail he had only time to tell us that the conference said they exonerated him from the charge of intoxication; but reprimanded him for not attending the Meeting; and seemed to say they intended sending him to Sydney!!! This, to such a man as Turton; and that really bad man Ironside to be pitied and made much of. It is too bad. We are doing all we can to get Turton to give up the Mission. For a man of his talents must do in any situation. He would make a famous Native Commissioner, under your orders; would he not? When you come I will show you such papers on this subject as will quite astonish you. Gibson Turton writes to me of your kindness to him in Auckland. How does he get on there? I have come to the end of the paper, but will always leave room to assure my dear big son of the affection of his old mother