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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to sister Octavia April 25, 1848

To sister Octavia.

I felt quite sorry when you talked about N.Z. ferns in that some had been promised you by Mrs. Cotton and that I have been so negligegent in never sending you anything. I do not mean that I have ever had any time to collect anything like plants myself when I was well enough to do so; but I have some young friends who would have done it for me had I asked them. I have had a good many N.Z. curiosities passing through my hands, but I have always given them to the first person who asked me for them, and have been thoughtless enough not to collect them gradually and then send them to you. I shall henceforth bear it in mind, and if any opportunity presents itself I shall make a little collection.

The natives at Otaki are now busily engaged in building a church which they began in my time but which has been neglected ever since: it will be superior to our Waikanae one, which is now the best in New Zealand. Those here who take an interest in the natives say it is quite pleasing to see the village—cottages, with chimneys and windows, gardens with fruit trees and flowers, some with bee-hives introduced by Mr. Cotton, several with good barns well stocked with wheat, a large water mill in course of erection milch cows (20 or 30 of all ages) supplying them with milk, a great acquisition to the children, also butter; and all attending morning and evening service in the old church, with about 120 attending a daily school chiefly carried on by native teachers working gratuitously.

The vegetation of N.Z. is very grand, but would strike your eye as peculiar. It does not present that freshness and variety which an English wood in Spring does. But then the luxuriance of the growth surprises, and the magnificence of the trees. The beauty of some of the tree-ferns escapes all description, as does that of some of the creepers hanging in festoons from the high trees. The elegance also of the forms of some of the young forest trees growing in very sheltered places where the wind has never touched them is very splendid. Wellington is a beautiful place; as I look here upon a garden with a variety of English, Cape of Good Hope, New South Wales, etc., plants, and then upon the blue water of the harbour broken by bays backed by cliffs and hills covered with hanging woods, and with the snow-capped mountains Tararua in the distance, I constantly page 193 exclaim to myself—what a beautiful world it is! How much might not man enjoy it if he would live in the world without abusing it.

I must now tell you something of my old friends the Waikanae natives. Through a series of blunders on the part of those concerned in carrying on the subordinate arrangements of the Government, there have been some disputes about land; the result is that last week 200 men with their families left in their canoes to return to Taranaki, the place from which they originally came. I think the Government will have cause to regret it by and by. About 100 men with their families have remained, including a great many who were my greatest friends.