Letter from P. Wilson dated 19th. February 1849
19th. February 1849
My dear Mac,
We have been all gaiety, and goodness knows what, in the way of dancing. Our ball at Newland's new house, was not numerously; but what may be called the elite of the place were there; and without doubt, we had a very pleasant, and not so extravagantly expensive a party, as that of last year; yet I believe, though the damage was only 4/-each, everyone went away quite evidently satisfied with the quantity and quality of the refreshments, as much as they were with the dancing; and that assuredly all had enough of. Having now found out that economy may even be practised at balls, it is not very likely that henceforth they will be so like to angel visits, few and far between; and when under the profuse dispensation of Donald McLean, and other extravagant timers. Where this is to find you, I cannot tell; for, as to some you date from Wanganui, to others Rangitikei, and to me Waikanae, - it would
appear that you possess a sort of wandermania, which the post has hardly a chance of overtaking. Be that as it may, I give this to the care of Halse to forward to you.
The cry universal, here, is, when does McLean return? It seems the natives between this and the Waitara, are all anxious to sell their land; and Mr. Brown assured me two days ago, that several had been with him, requesting such and such articles to be obtained from Sydney for them, in anticipation of your coming to supply them with the means of purchasing. So I am not inimical, but most friendly, to the extension of old settlements. I join the cry with all my heart, so you had better make haste while the pot boils. But if you require an extra stimulus to get you afoot, I may add that there are now serious intentions to get up shortly a Fancy Ball, which ought, of itself, to tickle your fancy enough to make all possible haste.
McShane has gone to the Hospital to live. From the first he did nothing but express dissatisfaction at your house, and I was not sorry when he left it; for to us, I think, he would have been not the best of neighbours; as he showed no disposition to reciprocate any civilities we had it in our power to
offer. Therefore, in so far as we are concerned, we do not regret the change. He has sent a patient down to occupy your back house, with directions, I understand, to William, to look after him. Thus it would appear that he considers he still has possession of ths house; and if so, all is well. But, understand that, he gave the keys to William when he went away; and that the since occupation has been done without consulting us on the matter; for William, you must also be made aware, has from some freak or other, shown as cold a side as he could, towards us, for a considerable time past. Neither Mrs. W. nor myself are alive to the cause of this; but for some time before you left, it occurred to her that he came much less about us than was his former wont. But this, I supposed, was a matter of fancy, and gave it no other attention. However, when we came to put up what I considered was to be our conjoint fencing, I found on the first post being put down that it was to be a three, instead of a four rail fence. I pointed out to him that such would never answer; as he, knowing that I had goats to go in my ground, must see that they could go betwixt the rails at a gallop, consequently injure his crop of wheat. Instead, however, of conceding this, he told me to do my half as
I liked, and that he would do his. "he that will to Cuper maun to Cuper", as the proverb says; so I left him to his folly; and accordingly his half he persevered in so putting up. The consequence was, that as we were unwilling the corn should be destroyed, we were obliged to tether our goats, instead of letting them at large. But the goats, on two or three occasions, broke their tethers and did get among the wheat; and though they did no great damage, yet the circumstance was one of vexation, both to him, and to us. Yet the fault was his own, for he would take no means to keep them out. On one of these occasions, I was from home, but he came and spoke so improperly to Mrs. W. that I felt myself under the necessity of speaking sharply to him, and insist on his putting in another rail. But his reply was that I had no business to keep goats; that he was only obliged to fence against what he calls cattle, and that I not only annoyed him, but also Mayles, on his section at the Omata. This last bit of dictation rather surprised me, for it was the voluntary offer of Mayles to take charge there of my poor kids; and on asking the man how he had happened to complain to William, he denied stoutly ever having made such a complaint. But by and bye the wheat crop on his ground was reaped and removed; so as he still perse-
-vered in keeping the fence as originally put up, I determined no longer to gratify him by keeping my goats tethered, but turned them loose in my own ground. Finding themselves so, they were not long in availing themselves of his open fence; and accordingly, as there was better feed on his ground than on mine, they were, and are still daily visitants. On his ground there remained a small patch of oats, belonging to Rowe; which, of course, they availed of; and though we frequently at first drove them through to my own ground, no sooner would we turn our back, than they returned. So matters went on, till about ten or twelve days ago, when Rowe came to me, and complained that my goats were eating his oats. Truly are they, said I; but look over to that fence, Mr. Rowe, and tell me if you consider that a proper fence to keep beasts out; and now look to the four-rail fence which I have put up, and you see that neither my barley or oats have been in the least injured, though the goats have the daily liberty of looking through at them also. The man at once admitted the facts, and avowed that it was to William he had to look for compensation. However, as I thought it would be better to see if I could not by such means compel William to put in another rail into his half of the fence, I requested Rowe to summons me. But he
feared the expenses would fall on himself, though he confessed that William had laid the information for the purpose of getting me to pay damages. Seeing this, I brought the matter before Captain King and the bench on this day week, when it was pointed out to William that he had got a wrong version of the law, and ought to fence as I had fenced. He was resolved, however, to keep stubbornly to his point; and not only pertly asked if he was obliged to do so, but asserted that my goats had got through my four-rail fence into both Dalby's and James' grounds. This I could not positively deny, but I could and did say that I had never heard of it. However, on my way home, I called on both James and Dalby, and asked how they came not to complain to me, but both averred that the accusation was false, and that my goats had never been on my grounds from the time the fence had been put up. He now says that a girl told him so; and that girl it seems, is that little blackguard, Grove's daughter; sho was, for some time, in our service; and who, he knew, as well as us, could not tell truth if a lie was at hand to substitute. Fearing that his character for veracity, on my taxing him, with what both James and Dalby had averred, might be injured, away
he went to Captain King with this new story of the girl; but the Captain would give little attention to his amendment; and we do not think it worth our while to probe into the matter any further; though we have our doubts even as to that, for the girl was at service in town before the fence was put up; consequently could know nothing of the matter. What his motives for so singular conduct are we cannot guess; but other circumstances of underhand dealing lead us to believe that he is not the fair aboveboard character we long regarded him.
Our wheat harvest has been long over, and the other grains are about a close. The natives have quite exposed the pakeha monopoly, and high wages; they having cut at 10/-, and even as low as 6/- per acre. But henceforth, it is likely, Davy and others think, they will cut at 3/- or half a crown; for I lent one of my new-fangled scythes, my old prejudice will call them, to Mr. Nairn on trial; and his son John, by no means a stout lad, cut, without bending his back or fatiguing himself, and in my presence on Friday last, an acre and three quarters of barley, considerably entangled, too, with fern and convolvulus, in less than seven hours; for he worked seven and a half hours, but during that time he bound up nearly
half an acre of the corn. Davy and Cook are so delighted with its superiority, both as to celerity of work and lightness, for it only weighs, with all its reaping apparatus, nine pounds, that they are going to send Home for a quantity to meet the coming harvest; and are satisfied that in Maori hands it will utterly banish all other modes of reaping corn. It would have done you good to have seen old Nairn when he saw it. The old man is not generally an admirer of novelties, but he could not admire this enough; and vows it is the greatest improvement in the way of implements, he ever saw. The beauty of it is that no art is required in using it; an hour's practice being enough; and it is so handy that a boy may be employed. What with the natives coming forward as reapers, and what with this scythe, the farmers are all cock-a-whoop about growing wheat next season to any extent. To facilitate field labour is a grand object; and I shall be truly happy to find that the adoption of this, supercedes ignorant prejudice, and the old scythe. It takes readily a sweep of nine or ten feet; but for heavy, tall wheat it ought, for really clean work, not to be put to more than from
five to six; but with that breadth, from the speed which a man can go with it, he may in a ten hours1 day's work, exceed cutting two acres. So, as the toast goes, Speed the Plough, I would add, Speed the Scotch scythe.
Grimstone sent me round a copy of the prospectus of his intended New Zealand Magazine, but I have written to him to say it won't do. The price is too high, and literature is as yet at a very heavy discount in this country. I sent him a paper for it, and have offered to be a constant contributor to his third section; but as to Politics, I leave those to write thereon who have a party to sustain; for I have none, and care as little for a Whig as a Tory; and just as much for a Tory as a Leveller.
Peter Elliot has paid Dorset £20 of the £30 due for the horse, but is anxiously looking for cash from you per coming post. If it does not come, I hope I will not do wrong, if Elliot presses for the money, to apply to Captain King, to advance the amount?
Mrs. W. and Pat desire their kind regards. I got about a ton of splendid large potatoes from my six rows, so if the others turn out as well, I shall be well off. My wife is picking garlic for you in abundance, as she says there is no satisfying you on
that head. The crop of that was also good; but a single short row of English shalots beat all, for I don't think the little bulbs weighed much over an ounce, when planted, and were carried easily in the palm of my hands; yet they have yielded upwards of sixteen pounds. What may not a man do with a bit of ground in this climate. Our French beans, too, have turned out magnificently; but indeed all our crops have done amazingly well, and abundantly repay any labour we have bestowed in ridding ourselves of weeds.
But I must close for the post, and remain ever most faithfully
P.S. Cook has let his farm to Ed. Davy, and means to give all his attention to the thrashing machine. I am sure he is right, for general opinion is that he was plucked on all hands.
Donald McLean Esq. J.P.