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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 30/144 -
escape from this confinement, and are then frizzed and curled, like a mop or a poodle's coat. Leonard Harper and I returned in this boat, Tahitian steering, Samoan, Futuman, and Anaiteans making one motley crew. The brisk trade soon carried us to the beach in front of Mr. Inglis's house, and arrived at the reef I rode out pick-a-back on the Samoan, Leonard following on a half-naked Anaitean. We soon found ourselves in the midst of a number of men, women and children, standing round Mr. Inglis at the entrance of his garden. I explained to him the reason of the Bishop's being unable to land, that he alone knew the harbour on the other side of island, and so could not leave the vessel.
'Then, having delivered the boxes and letters we had brought for him from Auckland, we went into his house, gazing with delight at cocoanut trees, bananas, breadfruit trees, citrons, lemons, taro, &c., with bright tropical colouring thrown over all, lighting up the broad leaves and thick foliage of the trees around us.
'The house itself is built, after the fashion of these islands, of wattle plastered with coral lime, the roof thatched with the leaves of the cocoa-nut and pandana; the fences of the garden were made of cane, prettily worked together in a cross pattern; the path neatly kept, and everything looking clean and tidy. We sat down in a small, well-furnished room, and looked out upon the garden, verandah, and groups of men and women standing outside. Presently Mrs. Inglis came into the room, and after some discussion I was persuaded to stay all night, since the schooner could not reach her anchorage before dark, and the next day the water-casks were to be filled.
'An excellent dinner was provided: roast fowl with taro, a nutritious root somewhat like potato, rice and jam, bananas and delicious fruit, bread and Scotch cheese, with glasses of cocoa-nut milk.
'Afterwards he showed us the arrangements for boarding young men and women--twelve of the former, and fourteen of the latter. Nothing could well exceed the cleanliness and order of their houses, sleeping rooms, and cooking rooms. The houses, wattled and plastered, had floors covered with native mats, beds laid upon a raised platform running round the inner room, mats and blankets for covering, and bamboo cane for a pillow. The boys were, some writing, some making twine, some summing, when we went in; the girls just putting on their bonnets, of their own manufacture, for school.
'They learn all household work--cooking, hemming, sewing, &c.; the boys tend the poultry, cows, cultivate taro, make arrowroot, &c. All of them could read fluently, and all looked happy, clean, and healthy. The girls wear their native petticoats of cocoa-nut leaves, with a calico body. Boys wear trousers, and some had shirts, some waistcoats, and a few jackets.
'We walked about a small wood adjoining the house, through which a small fresh-water stream runs. In the wood we saw specimens of the various trees and shrubs, and flowers of the island, including those already noticed in Mr. Inglis's garden, and the breadfruit tree and sugar-cane, and a beautiful bright flower of scarlet colour, a convolvulus, larger than any I had ever seen elsewhere; also a tree bearing a very beautiful yellow flower.
'We then returned to the house, and shortly afterwards went to the church, which is at present used also as the school-house, though the uprights of a larger school-house are already fixed in the ground.
'Men, women, and children to the number of ninety-four had assembled in a large oblong building, wattled and plastered, with open windows on all sides; mats arranged on the floor, and a raised platform or bench running round the building for persons who prefer to sit after the English, instead of the native fashion,
'All that were called upon to read did so fluently; the singing was harsh and nasal enough, but in very good time; their counting very good, and their writing on slates quite equal to the average performance, I am satisfied, of a good English parish school. They listened attentively when Mr. Inglis spoke to them, and when at his request I said a few words, which he translated. The most perfect order and quiet prevailed all the time we were in the school. At the end of the lessons they came forward, and each one shook hands with Leonard Harper and myself, smiling and laughing with their quick intelligent eyes, and apparently pleased to see strangers among them.
'By this time it was dusk, and we went back to the Mission House, and spent a pleasant evening, asking and answering questions about Anaiteum and the world beyond it, until 8 P.M., when the boarders came to prayers, with two or three persons who live about the place. They read the third chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel in turns, verse by verse, and then a prayer from Mr. Inglis followed. At 8.30 we had private family prayers, and at 9 went to bed.
'July 16.--We got up at four, and were soon ready for our walk to the south side of the Island; Mr. Inglis came with us, and ten or twelve natives. For the first half-mile we walked along the beach among cocoa-nut trees, bananas and sugar-canes, the sun, not yet above the horizon, tingeing the light clouds with faint pink and purple lines, the freshness of the early dawn, and the soft breeze playing about us, gladdening at once our eyes and our hearts. Soon we struck off to the south, and passing through taro plantations, began to ascend the slopes of the island. As we walked along we heard the sound of the logs beaten together, summoning the people to attend the various schools planted in every locality, under the management of native teachers, and we had a good opportunity of observing the careful system of irrigation adopted by the natives for the cultivation of the taro plant. Following the course of a small mountain stream, we observed the labour with which the water was brought down from it upon causeways of earth, carried in baskets from very considerable distances; occasionally the water-course is led round the head of various small ravines; at other times the trunk of a tree is hollowed out and converted into an aqueduct; but no pains have been wanting to make provision for the growth of the staple food of the island.'
From this scene of hope and encouragement the 'Southern Cross' sailed on the sixteenth, and passing Erromango, came in sight of Fate, also called Sandwich, a wooded island beautiful beyond description, but with a bad character for cannibalism, and where the Samoan teachers had been murdered. So the approach was cautious, and the vessel kept a mile from the shore, and was soon surrounded with canoes, one of them containing a native who had been instructed in Samoa, and was now acting as teacher.
'The first canoe that came had five men on board. Girdles of beautifully plaited cocoa-nut fibre round their waists were their only clothing, but some had wreaths of flowers and green leaves round their heads, and most of them wore mother-of-pearl shells, beads, &c., round their necks and in their ears. They do not tattoo, but brand their skins. All five came, and presently three more, and then another; but seeing a large double canoe with perhaps twenty men in her coming close, we stood away. Two of our visitors chose to stay, and we have them on board now: Alsoff, a man of perhaps forty-five, and Mospa, a very intelligent young man from whom I am picking up words as fast as I can. F. would have laughed to have seen me rigging them out in calico shirts, buttoning them up. Mospa gave me his wooden comb, which they push through their hair, as you ladies do coral or gold pins at parties. Another fellow whose head was elaborately frizzled and plastered with coral lime, departed with one of my common calico pocket-handkerchiefs with my name in Joan's marking. This is to adorn his head, and for aught I know, is the first, and certainly the best specimen of handwriting in the island. We hope to call at all these islands on our way back from the north, but at present we only dodge a few canoes, &c.
'July 20.--I suppose you like to know all little things, so I tell you that our Fate friends, being presented each with a blanket, just wound themselves up on the cabin floor, one close to Leonard and me, and slept away in style; that I soon taught them to eat with a knife and fork, and to-day have almost succeeded in making them believe that plum pudding (our Sunday dish) is a fine thing.
'July 21.--All day we have been very slowly drifting along the west side of Espiritu Santo. A grand mountainous chain runs along the whole island, the peaks we estimate at 4,000 feet high. This alone is a fine sight--luxuriant vegetation to nearly the top of the peaks, clouds resting upon the summit of the range, from the evaporation caused by the vast amount of vegetable matter.
'As we were lying to, about half-way along the coast, we espied a brig at anchor close on shore. Manned the boat and rowed about two miles to the brig, found it was under the command of a notorious man among the sandal-wood traders for many a dark deed of revenge and unscrupulous retaliation upon the natives. At Nengone he shot three in cold blood who swam off to his ship, because the people of the place were said to be about to attempt to take his vessel. At Mallicolo but lately I fear he killed not less than eight, though here there was some scuffling and provocation. For the Nengone affair he was tried for his life at Sydney, Captain Erskine and the Bishop having much to do with his prosecution. He is now dealing fairly (apparently) with these people, and is certainly on very friendly terms with them. The Bishop has known him many years, and baptized some years ago his only child, a son. We are glad to let these men see that we are about in these seas, watching what they do; and the Bishop said, "Mr. Patteson is come from England on purpose to look after these islands," as much as to say, Now there will be a regular visitation of them, and outrages committed on the natives will probably be discovered.
'Well, on we rowed, half a mile to shore--such a lovely scene. A bend in the coral reef made a beautiful boat harbour, and into it we rowed. Clear as crystal was the water, bright as tropical sun at 2.30 P.M. could make it was the foliage on the shore. Numbers of children and boys were playing in the water or running about on the rocks and sands, and there were several men about, all of course naked, and as they lead an amphibious life they find it very convenient. They work little; breadfruit trees, cocoa-nut trees, and bananas grow naturally, and the yam and taro cultivations are weeded and tended by the women. They have nothing to do but eat, drink, and sleep, and lie on the warm coral rock, and bathe in the surf.
'There was no shyness on the part of the children, dear little fellows from six to ten clustering round me, unable to understand my coat with pockets, and what my socks could be--I seemed to have two or three skins. The men came up and soon shook hands, but did not seem to know the custom. A Nengone man was ashore, and with him I could talk a little. Soon I was walking on shore arm-in-arm with him, stark naked, and he was asking me about Mrs. Nihill and her child. A little boy of the island held the other hand, and so, leaving the boat, we walked inland into the bush to see a native village. Ten minutes' walk brought us to it--cottages all of bamboos tied together with cocoa-nut fibre, thatched with leaves, a ridge- pole and sloping roof on either side reaching to the ground. No upright poles or side-walls; they were quite open at the two ends, perhaps 20, 30, or even 40 feet long; the general appearance clean and healthy. Their food was kept on raised stages as in New Zealand, and they had plenty of earthenware pots and basins, some of good
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