1867 - Moillet, J. K. The Mary Ira - IV. Norfolk Island, p 73-95

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  1867 - Moillet, J. K. The Mary Ira - IV. Norfolk Island, p 73-95
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ANTICIPATING bad weather, the Captain had run into a small harbour on the coast, where he had anchored for the remainder of the night. It was a pretty place, though groaning under the inelegant name of Tutucaca. At its entrance were three enormous gables of solid rock. The passage in was only a cable's length in width, but inside, it opened out to about twice that extent. There was a pretty wooded islet in the middle, close to which the

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schooner had dropped anchor. It was well protected to sea-ward by rocks, and there was a small Maori village on the little strip of shelving beach which formed the southern shore.

On the morning of the 29th of April, some Maories came, in their beautifully-carved canoes, alongside the schooner, bringing with them water-melons, mash-melons, and pumpkin-melons, also kumara (a native sweet potato), and some common pumpkins, in return for which they begged for some "pipes and 'bacco," which were readily given them.

Tony commenced catching fish, and was so successful, that in ten minutes a score of large "snapper" were flopping about on deck. While he was preparing them for breakfast, Bill and Charlie went ashore with the natives, returning shortly afterwards with a couple of canoe-fulls of fire-wood, with which the vessel had been rather scantily provided.

The breakfast was extremely amusing. Four or five of the Maories had clambered up on deck,

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and their olfactory nerves were tickled by the odour of the roasting "snapper," which provoked a strong sensation of hunger. They considered they had earned a breakfast, by the assistance they had afforded in collecting firewood.

"Well," said the Captain, who had gathered enough from their strange broken English to perceive what they wanted; "let them have breakfast with us."

"Look 'ere now, yer niggers. Sit down, vill yer?" said Harry; "an' put on yer best manners, like Pakehas (Europeans), or I'll not sit down vith yer."

"Y-you d-do like m-me," said Charlie, drawing himself out with intense dignity, and then sitting down, as if he had swallowed a poker.

"Yah! ar, ar, me Pakeha, we all Pakehas," said the natives, who gravely and exactly imitated him, sitting down like so many pairs of tongs, bent rigidly into sitting attitudes.

Tony having served up breakfast, thought it

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was his turn to initiate them into the manners of fashionable life.

"You do like me," said he to one of them, "and not like him," pointing to Charlie

The native he had addressed carelessly flung one leg over the other, and threw the whole crew into convulsions of laughter, by cleverly assuming the exaggerated airs of a dandified coxcomb. He bowed to the Captain with frigid politeness, as he sipped his coffee. He gracefully flourished his arms about as he took a biscuit, which Tony handed him, and smiled blandly on himself, and washed his hands in the air, with the self-complacent look that so well suits a small tea party at home. A short, black pipe, held against his brow by a piece; of twine tied round his head, gave him an irresistibly comical appearance. His mimicry of European conversation was, moreover, capital. Addressing the other Maories in, it is true, a somewhat unintelligible language, he seemed to be pluming himself prodigiously upon his knowledge of Europeans generally. Perhaps he had

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visited Auckland, and like the monkey who stept out of his cage, thought that he also had seen the world. At all events, he looked upon himself as being infinitely superior to his brown brothers, who were but a parcel of ignorant blacks. Having indulged himself with various sarcasms on their colour, ugliness, and such-like personalities, he finished up by requesting to be allowed the singular honour of "smoking that gentleman's health," pointing to Tony, "in a pipeful of 'bacco."

"The vether's been taking up all the blessed morning, sir, an' the vind seems coming round a few points, vot leetle there is on it. Hadn't ye better move on."

"The tide is s-still g-getting in strong--g-get-ting in strong."

"Yes, but we can't afford to lose time. Perhaps the natives will tow us out with their canoes."

"Give 'em a taste of rum, Captain. Them

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chaps vould drown 'emselves for a toothful of grog."

The anchor up, and mainsail set, a small hawser was handed down to the natives, who rowed away vigorously in their canoes, between the rocks, to the sea, towing the schooner out with them. The jib, stay, and foresail, were then run up, and soon she went dancing away, with the wind on her port quarter along the wild and rugged coast, past Cape Brett, which is twelve hundred feet high, rising abruptly on its eastern side, but sloping off gradually to the north; past a small bare rock which lies off it, a little way out to sea, perforated by a strange looking natural archway. This rock forms one side of the eastern approach to that lovely harbour, studded with innumerable islands, where stands the town of Korarika, formerly one of the chief places of resort of the many whalers that, a few years back, used to frequent these seas. Subsequently it was, for a short time, the capital of New Zealand; Auckland

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superseded it, and Wellington has now superseded Auckland.

The schooner did not enter the "Bay of Islands," but kept on her course to the north. At sundown, the Captain passed the "North Cape," and took his departure from that singularly bold group of Island rocks, called the "Three Kings."

On the thirtieth of April he fell in with the strong south-east trade winds which bore him rapidly onwards towards Norfolk Island. On the night of the first of May it blew rather fresh, so the Captain hauled on a wind from the south, fearing lest he should pass it.

At sunrise on the second, he sighted Philip Island and flew down to it, at a great rate, before the boisterous breeze, under double reefed canvas. Philip Island is a curious red rock, situated close to Norfolk Island, and opposite its principal harbour, which has been named after Sydney, the capital of New South Wales.

And now all were looking anxiously at the

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flag-staff in Sydney Harbour to see whether the flag of danger, or the union jack, was hoisted by the inhabitants; for this place is so exposed to the wind, that it is only in very moderate weather that it affords a safe anchorage.

Yes, there it was, plain enough; the Captain had caught sight of the union jack with his glass, and congratulating himself that all was right, he boldly ran on for the anchorage, as marked in the chart, intending to provide himself with additional firewood and to await more moderate weather.

Bill and Tony went for'ard to be ready to let go the anchor stop, when the proper moment for doing so should have arrived, Harry stood by the lead-line, and Charlie steered. It was a moment of considerable excitement for them all, as the little craft rose and fell on the seas that, in the now shoaling water, stood mountains high, and neared the reefs which apparently extended entirely round the open bay, into which they had sailed, with the wind right aft.

In vain the Captain examined this barrier of

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water, dashed high in the air, by unseen rocks, into cataracts of foam, hoping to find some opening through which they might pass into the smooth water beyond; but no, there was nothing of the sort, and the bay itself was far too unprotected for any one to dream for a moment of anchoring in it. Philip Island, which is nothing but a bare rock, was too small and too distant to afford them the shelter of a lee shore. In fact it soon became so evident that Sydney harbour, Norfolk Island, was, in the usual acceptation of the word, no harbour at all, that the Captain suddenly exclaimed--

"If we're not already jam'd, we must get out of this, at all risks, or we're lost. Jibe ship there. Down with the helm, hard to port. Haul in the main sheet."

The schooner answered her helm only too easily, for, as her head came round, a sea caught her a buffet on the port quarter which set her spinning, long before the main sheet could be gathered in, and consequently the boom of the

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main sail (which was taken aback), swung across the taffrail with a heavy surge, nearly knocking Charlie overboard, and being brought up, on the other side, by the main sheet, suddenly, and with a violent jerk, it broke loose from the mast altogether, and fell quivering on the deck like a live thing.

"Jaws of the boom are gone. Handspikes there, Tony. Some spare rope, some one. Look alive, now!"

The handspikes were brought in an instant, and one on either side of the boom projecting a little from its end, so as to form jaws, were firmly lashed. It required the united strength of the whole crew to ship it on the shoulders against the mast. The excitement of emergency gives strength. In another minute they would have been too late. It would have been utterly impossible for them to have got out of the reef-surrounded bay, by which they were nearly shut in. As it was, they had to keep her feathers shaking in the wind, and it was rather owing to

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an eddy of the current, which carried them round than to the sailing qualities of the craft, that she escaped utter destruction from the reefs on her lee bow.

The crew, on looking back, like Lot's wife, saw that the flagstaff had, apparently, at length awoke to a sense of their danger, and had lowered its flag half mast. This signal, if it did not exactly turn them into pillars of salt produced in them that savory zest or gratification, which is said to be the salt of life; for it was clear, that the islanders intended to signify by that demonstration that they had narrowly escaped "instant death."

Tony being well assured of this fact, commenced immediate preparations for dinner, while the Captain steered the vessel round to the lee side of the Island.

At a little distance, Norfolk Island looks like a huge mountain of rock, driven up from the very depths of the sea, for its sides are so perpendicular (except indeed at Sydney Harbour, and Cascade

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Bay, where they are a little shelving), that one might call it table-land, were it not that in lieu of being flat at the top, it rises up into many rounded hills, flowing one over the other in picturesque irregularity. On coming nearer, it is found to be clothed with the magnificent Araucaria Excelsa, clean, tall pine trees, with branches feathering down to the grassy slopes beneath, upon which a good sprinkling of cattle may be seen grazing tranquilly. From the slightly stiff symmetry of the Norfolk pine, the whole bore a faint resemblance to a piece of English park scenery, natural, but well taken care of.

This island as every body knows, used in former days to be one of the principal penal settlements, and judging from the difficulty experienced by the little schooner to get there, we should be inclined to consider it as having been extremely well adapted for that purpose. The chances for escape would at least be very small as regards the unfortunate convict, but our own English trans-

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portation thither has come to an end, and it is no longer viewed as a mere rocky prison. The mutineers of "The Bounty," who, it may be remembered, retired into private life on Pitcairn's Island, having, in the course of years, become so numerous as to be unable to find means of support from an island of only four miles and a half in circumference, have been lately transported to Norfolk Island.

Captain Fenton Aylmer tells us that in the year 1831 an unsuccessful attempt had previously been made to get them to settle on the Island Otaheiti. He says:--

"As might be supposed, these primitive and religious people did not understand the morals of their new home. At first they kept aloof, then some giving way, the others grew alarmed, and (having, we may add, lost twelve of their number through sickness), they determined to quit the scene of temptation. They petitioned government to be taken back to Pitcairn's, and greatly to their joy, the petition was granted.

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"Again they were on the salt ocean, and soon upon their native soil. Nothing could exceed their joy and triumph; they ran about the hills like children; weeping tears of joy, and congratulating each other upon their escape from 'the land of hell!' Alas! their joy was of short continuance; one of the worst vices of civilization followed them, and in a short time after their return home, some of them began distilling rum! In vain did the older and wiser men remonstrate; they persisted in their design. It was at this moment that an extraordinary adventurer, calling himself Lord Hill, arrived. He professed to bring government authority to adjust the affairs of the island, and believing him, the islanders obeyed him scrupulously. During some time he remained in full possession, until the arrival of a ship of war, commanded by the son of the very man to whom he represented himself as a near relation. The denouement came, but having no authority, Lord Russell very properly represented the case to his admiral, who

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sent authority to bring off Mr. Hill, and thus free the islanders from a cruel and unjust persecution."

It is these interesting people who now inhabit Norfolk Island. They have been there for some five years, and with the best results, for they have not only put the buildings into excellent repair, cleared large portions of land, and commenced regular farming, but they have also started several whaling stations, which appear to pay well.

The Pitcairners paid a visit to the little schooner while she was toilfully beating round to the lee of the island. They came in a large whale boat, when the weather had begun to moderate. There were ten of them; fine, tall, athletic young men, very brown, and speaking rather a curious dialect of the English language. They enquired after the object of the Captain's visit, and obligingly offered their services, if needed, and gave every information about the

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anchorage in Cascade Bay, as that little cove is pretentiously called.

The Captain asked them all on board, and-- yes, we blush to have to record it--so far forgot himself as to offer them the very low beverage of rum, thinking to warm their chilled bodies and quench their thirst withal, after their laborious row in a drenching surf; but being politely informed that, though they were descendants from mutineers, yet they were to a man teetotallers, he immediately asked them to have tea with him, and eventually prevailed upon them to do so.

While they ate their biscuits and drank their coffee, the Captain mentioned that he was in want of fire-wood, and asked permission (since he was necessarily detained by the loss sustained through the breaking loose of the main boom) to land on their hospitable shores and collect a little fire-wood, whilst Charlie was employed in carpentering up and fixing on a new pair of jaws.

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"Certainly," replied the chief of this decemvirate; "but your boat won't carry you through the surf, which beats heavily on the shore here."

"Dash my vorsted vig," replied old Harry; "if the boat von't carry us through, vhy me an' my mates vill just bare a hand and carry the boat through, old chap."

"Do you prefer this place to Pitcairn's Island?" asked the Captain.

"Our young men do, they are proud of it, and think it possesses many more resources than their former home; but the old people want to return to the home of their childhood, and see once more the friends and relations they have left behind them."

"Have any of you yet returned?"

"Yes, a few; and amongst others one old woman, who, they say, has made quite a disturbance at Pitcairn Island."

"'Winds, weapons, flame, make not such hurly-burly,
As raving woman turns all topsy turvy.'"

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"But what has this woman in particular done?"

"Why, when she and her husband and all of us left Pitcairn Island to come here, it was supposed by the authorities that we had, of course, abandoned all claim to such portions of it as then belonged to us, and so a re-distribution of the land took place amongst all those who remained. But this old woman was not satisfied with Norfolk Island; so that before her husband died, she got him to write a correctly drawn up will, bequeathing to her all his land in Pitcairn Island, in case she returned there."

"And how will the Pitcairners act? Will they give her the land?"

"No; they think no former claim holds good after the abandonment of the whole."

"Yes, I see; but they won't leave the poor old thing to starve, I suppose?"

"No; many of the islanders take the side of the widow."

"And so there's a regular row about it. Who will decide the affair?"

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"I can't say exactly; but they say Moses Young, the governing magistrate, in order to stop all quarrelling among the islanders, has got them to consent to a settlement by arbitration, and that the Governor of New South Wales will probably be asked to decide upon it."

"What sort of a place is Pitcairn Island? Don't you find it somewhat cold here?"

"Yes, we feel the cold much, and the boisterous wind more. Pitcairn Island is surrounded with reefs and rocks; Bounty Bay is the only place for a vessel to anchor in. The coast is steep and rugged; but the inside of the island is very beautiful, and very fertile, what little there is of it. for it's mostly volcanic There is a great want of water there, which is its chief drawback; there is a high hill fronting Bounty Bay, called St. Paul's. But we must wish you good night, Ho! Solomon, haul up the boat alongside."

And with that they departed.

It was some time before the vessel dropped anchor in Cascade Bay. As she still lingered

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along the coast, baffled both by the wind and strong current during that night and the following day, four of the islanders paid her a second visit in the whale boat, which this time was full of fire-wood.

"We've brought you some fire-wood," said one of them, catching hold of a rope which Harry had flung out to them.

"Thank you; I'm sure I'm much obliged to you. And yet I'm sorry you should have had so much trouble," replied the Captain.

"It's werry kind of you chaps to make us so 'ansome a present," added Harry.

"It's very cheap," said the Pitcairner.

"Yees," replied Harry, "it is werry cheap, considerin' as 'ow it's a lying all about the beach. I should say it vos dirt cheap, I should."

"We'll sell it you for thirty shillings," said the Pitcairner.

"Vill yer now, really? Vell, now I calls that werry remarkably ceevil of you chaps, I must say."

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"Will you have it?"

"Does yer take me for a jintleman as vonts to hease 'imself of his extra cash? No."

"My eye!" said Tony, "that's good; the idea of his taking you for a gentleman!"

"It's taken you four men, I should think," said the Captain, "about an hour's work to pitch that wood in the boat and to sail out here; so I'll offer you a couple of shillings apiece, but I couldn't give you more. Two shillings an hour's good pay, you know; that's eight shillings for the lot. Will you sell it for eight shillings?"

"No, thirty shillings; then you don't want any fire-wood at all, really?"

"The juice I don't," said Harry, angrily. "Yees, but I do vont any fire-wood really, an' 'ill give yer eight bob for it, or I'll get it myself."


"Hold your tongue, Harry; don't be so hot with them."

"Aye, sir," said Bill; "what do they know

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about the value of money? There's no use talking angrily to them."

"We don't want to buy your fire wood, my man, unless we can have it for eight shillings; so you may go, if that doesn't suit you," said the Captain.

But the Pitcairners would not go, pretending not to understand. After waiting patiently for some little time, Harry's face brightened up, and he continued,

"It's actions, an' not vords, vich these chaps understand; an' I'll shew 'em your vishes without hany more hargifying. Here, you chaps! Vere's your fire-wood? 'and it hup, vill yer? I'll 'av the 'ole kit of it; d'yer 'ear me?"

The Pitcairners evidently understood this perfectly well, for they at once, with hearty good will, commenced lifting up the logs of wood to Harry, who leant over the vessel's side to receive them. Somehow or other, the logs of wood managed to slip through his fingers, just as he was placing them on deck. At first the islanders

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did not appear to notice this curious accident; but when the logs began to fall overboard, nearer and nearer to the bows of their boat, so as to put it in considerable danger, they stopped short in their occupation, and stared at Harry with rather a disagreeable expression about the eyes. They ultimately withdrew, flinging the wood into the sea as they rowed slowly back to Cascade Day; into which little cove the Captain soon after followed them, anchoring there for the night.

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