THREE YEARS IN TRISTAN DA CUNHA
K. M. BARROW Wife of the Rev. J. G. Barrow, Missionary Clergyman in Tristan Da Cunha and fellow-worker with him on that island.
With thirty-seven original illustrations from photographs, and a map.
TO THE READER
The aim of the following pages is to give a simple and true description of daily life among a very small community cut off from the rest of the world.
No attempt is made at literary style, the language being almost entirely that of letters to a sister or of my journal.
In the first and third chapters free use has been made of the Blue Book (Cd. 3098), September 1906; and of the Africa Pilot, Part II, Fifth Edition, 1901.
I desire gratefully to acknowledge to Mr. Casper Keytel of Monille Point, Cape Town, his very kind permission to use the excellent photographs taken by him; and also my indebtedness to my husband for help in the revision of these pages.
K. M. B.
MAP OF THE ISLAND OF TRISTAN DE CUNHA [* OCR image only shows title]
AUTHOR'S PREFACE MAP OF ISLAND OF TRISTAN DA CUNHA CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI CHAPTER VII CHAPTER VIII CHAPTER IX CHAPTER X CHAPTER XI CHAPTER XII CHAPTER XIII CHAPTER XIV CHAPTER XV CHAPTER XVI CHAPTER XVII CHAPTER XVIII CHAPTER XIX CHAPTER XX CHAPTER XXI CHAPTER XXII CHAPTER XXIII CHAPTER XXIV CHAPTER XXV CHAPTER XXVI CHAPTER XXVII CHAPTER XXVIII CHAPTER XXIX CHAPTER XXX CHAPTER XXXI CHAPTER XXXII CHAPTER XXXIII CHAPTER XXXIV CHAPTER XXXV CHAPTER XXXVI CHAPTER XXXVII
APPENDICES A. THE FAUNA AND FLORA OF TRISTAN B. THE WEATHER C. SOME TRISTAN WORDS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
I THE SETTLEMENT [Frontispiece] II THE PEAK SHOWING ABOVE CLOUDS III BETTY COTTON'S HOUSE (FRONT), OUR NEW HOME IV BETTY COTTON'S HOUSE (BACK) V THE WATERFALL VI MOCCASINS VII THE CEMETERY VIII HILL TOP. INACCESSIBLE IN THE DISTANCE IX THE FLAGSTAFF X GOING WEST XI IN SCHOOL XII BIG BEACH XIII THE HENRY GREEN FAMILY AT WORK ON A POTATO PATCH XIV A PAIR OF PENGUINS XV EARLY MORNING FROM THE WEST, SHOWING SNOW IN CREVASSE, NEAR PEAK XVI BUGSBY HOLE XVII THE CRATER LAKE XVIII ON THE SUMMIT OF THE PEAK XIX COMPLETE GROUP OF THE ISLANDERS XX A GROUP OF ALL THE MEN XXI THE PATH OF PLANTATION GULCH XXII CATTLE, NEAR POTATO PATCHES XXIII A PENGUIN ROOKERY XXIV SHEEP BEING DRIVEN HOME XXV OUR BATHING PLACE (LITTLE BEACH) XXVI THE OLD CHURCH HOUSE XXVII LANDING GOODS XXVIII MRS. REPETTO FISHING XXIX MR. KEYTEL'S HOUSE XXX FRESHWATER CAVE XXXI MOLLYHAWK ON ITS NEST XXXII NEARLY FINISHED XXXIII THE KETCH XXXIV FISH-CLEANING XXXV HOTTENTOT GULCH XXXVI ALL THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN XXXVII ORANGES AND LEMONS
THREE YEARS IN TRISTAN DA CUNHA
Tristan da Cunha, a British possession, is an island-mountain of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic ocean. Latitude 37 deg. 5' 50" S.; longitude 12 deg. 16' 40" W. Circular in form. Circumference about 21 miles. Diameter about 7 miles. Height 7,640 feet. Volcano extinct during historic times. Discovered by the Portuguese navigator Tristan da Cunha, 1506. Occupied by the British, 1816. Nearest inhabited land, the island of St. Helena, 1,200 miles to the N.
In the autumn of 1904 we saw in the Standard a letter which arrested our attention. It was an appeal for some one to go to the Island of Tristan da Cunha, as the people had had no clergyman for seventeen years.
Now, Tristan da Cunha was not an unknown name to us, for as a child my husband loved to hear his mother tell of her shipwreck on Inaccessible, an uninhabited island twenty-five miles south-west of Tristan da Cunha.
She, then a child of four, and her nurse were passengers on the Blendon Hall, which left London for India in May 1821, and was wrecked during a dense fog on Inaccessible, July 23. The passengers and crew drifted ashore on spars and fragments of the vessel. Two of the crew perished, and nearly all the stores were lost. For four months they lived on this desolate island. A tent made out of sails was erected on the shore to protect the women and children from the cold and rain. They lived almost entirely on the eggs of sea-birds.
After waiting some time in hope of being seen by a ship, they made a raft from the remains of the wreck, and eight of the crew set off in it to try to reach Tristan, but were never heard of again, poor fellows. A few weeks later a second and successful attempt was made. The men reached Tristan, but in a very exhausted state. Then the Tristanites, led by Corporal Glass, manned their boats, and at great personal risk succeeded in fetching off the rest of the crew and passengers, who remained on Tristan till January 9, 1822, on which day a passing English brig took them to the Cape of Good Hope.
This was eighty-four years ago. And now the son of that little shipwrecked girl was seriously thinking of going out to minister to the children of her rescuers. Here I may mention that in the whole of their history, from 1816 to 1906, they had had only two clergymen living amongst them.
The first to go out was the Rev. W. F. Taylor, under the S.P.G. in 1851, a young London warehouseman who had not long been ordained. It is related by one of the passengers of the ship in which Mr. Taylor was sailing that the master of the vessel had great difficulty in locating the island, and that for three days they cruised about and saw nothing resembling land. The third day towards evening the skipper gave up the search and headed for the Cape. Mr. Taylor, who was gazing towards the setting sun suddenly saw the Peak of Tristan, which is 7,640 feet high, emerge out of the clouds. It was about ninety miles away. The captain turned back, and his passenger was safely landed. Mr. Taylor stayed there some five years. On his departure he induced about forty-five of the islanders to accompany him to Cape Colony, where they settled down.
The second clergyman, also in connection with the S.P.G., was the Rev. E. H. Dodgson, a brother of "Lewis Carroll." He arrived in December 1880 from St. Helena, and landed in safety, but the ship was driven ashore and he lost nearly all his clothing and books. One of the very few things washed ashore was a small stone font, which, curiously enough, was undamaged.
In December 1884 Mr. Dodgson, who was much out of health, got a passage to the Cape in a man-of-war. It was not his intention to return. But the next year a great calamity befell the Tristanites. Fifteen of their men put off in a new lifeboat to a ship, and were all drowned. Out of a population of ninety-two there were now only four male adults, and one of these was out of his mind and giving a good deal of trouble. Tristan had suddenly become an island of widows and children. When Mr. Dodgson heard of this calamity he at once offered to return. It being thought that the islanders were on the brink of starvation, H.M.S. Thalia was sent to their relief, and Mr. Dodgson sailed in her, reaching Tristan in August 1886. He remained till December 1889, when ill health again obliged him to leave. This time ten of the inhabitants left with him.
To go back to the period when we ourselves began to think of going out. After some months of serious consideration we resolved to make the attempt, and at once began to face the question of how to get there. To get to Tristan da Cunha is no easy matter; it took us nearly five months. There is no regular communication with it, and it has no harbour.
Formerly a man-of-war from the Cape station visited it once a year, but since the South African War this annual visit has been discontinued. Mr. Dodgson advised us to go to St. Helena and there await a whaler. He had found this the best plan. So accordingly we set off from Southampton on November 18, 1905—my husband, our maid and myself, taking with us a year's food supply and a very limited amount of furniture. St. Helena was reached in seventeen days. An interview with the American Consul, who was courtesy itself, convinced us there was no likelihood of getting a passage. The whalers that called there were from New Bedford in America, and none were expected. Our visit, however, was not entirely in vain, because we had the advantage of meeting the Bishop of St. Helena, who showed us much kindness, and of talking over our plans with him. The diocese of St. Helena must be unique. It consists of the three islands, St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. There is no clergyman on the two last, and only the bishop and three clergymen on St. Helena. No bishop of St. Helena has as yet landed upon Tristan da Cunha.
We decided to go on to Cape Town by the next steamer, which port we reached early in January, knowing no one beyond a few fellow-passengers. Not wishing to go to an hotel we took some rooms of which we heard from the chaplain of the Seamen's Mission. For the next few weeks my husband spent his time visiting the different shipping agencies and the docks, but to no purpose, as no ship would call at Tristan. We even cabled to a company in England; "No" met our every inquiry. February had now set in, and we thought that the best thing to do was to take a small unfurnished house and wait in hope that a man-of-war would be visiting the island at the end of the year. We had been about a month in this house when news came from my sister-in-law in England that the very company to which we had cabled and which had a monthly service between Table Bay and the River Plate was ready to take us for a named sum, but only on the understanding that should the weather be too rough to land us on Tristan we should have to go on to Buenos Ayres. In spite of the uncertainty involved it seemed right to accept this offer. We embarked on the steamer Surrey on March 31, but did not start till next day, Sunday, as some repairs had to be done to one of the engines. There went with us Tom Rogers, a Tristanite, who was glad of the opportunity of returning to his island home.
During our stay at Cape Town we had made many kind friends. Among them were Mr. Beverley, the rector of Holy Trinity Church, and Mrs. Beverley. They had helped us in looking for a house, helped in shopping, helped in packing, insisted on our taking our last meal with them, and came with us to the steamer. We found the steamer very crowded, the passengers quite outnumbering the berths, and it was not until evening that we could procure a cabin. But one thing I much appreciated: our collie was allowed to be with us during the day. We had only had him a few days, but he behaved excellently, lying at our feet most of the time. He came to us as "Whisky," but was promptly re-named "Rob."
On the early morning of the eighth day—it was Palm Sunday—the mountainous cliffs of Tristan could dimly be discerned. My husband had gone up on deck two or three times while it was yet dusk to see if land was visible; while I kept looking out of the porthole, although it was not a very large outlook. At about four o'clock he dressed and wrote several letters. At six o'clock, accompanied by Rob, I went on to the lower deck and could see Tristan enshrouded in mist. At about nine o'clock we arrived opposite the settlement. A high wind was blowing and the sea was rough. But this did not prevent the islanders setting off in two of their canvas boats to board the steamer. It was with great interest I went on deck to speak to them. I was greeted by an Italian, who in broken English said—
"It not very comfortable for a lady."
They said it was too rough for us to land at the settlement, but that if we went back eight or nine miles round to another part of the island landing would be possible. It did not take long to steam back, but it took many hours to land the luggage. This was done under the direction of the third officer by a ship's boat manned by several passengers, who were most keen to help, and by the two island boats. But it was done under considerable difficulty, "a dangerous swell running on to a steep pebbly beach." Twice the ship's boat filled with water, and once a man was washed overboard, but was hauled in again. The harmonium was floating in the sea, but being in a zinc-lined case took no harm. By the afternoon the sea had quieted down a little, and it was decided that it would be safe for us to land at the settlement. Personally I was rather disappointed at this decision; but it gave, we believe, much satisfaction to the captain, who did not seem at all to like the idea of landing us on the sea-shore, where we should certainly have had to spend one night, and might have had to spend several. We steamed to within three-quarters of a mile of the settlement, and between three and four o'clock all was in readiness for us to leave the steamer. Farewells were said, and then we descended to the lower deck, which was crowded with people. One island boat had already left. The other had been hauled on to the ship, and it was thought best that we should get into it and then be lowered. As they began to lift the boat there was an ominous crack, which caused the chief officer to tell us to get out, which we quickly did. The boat was then lowered into the sea. One by one we made the descent of about forty feet down the ship's side on a swinging rope ladder, holding a rope in each hand, and having one round our waist, and with an officer going in front of us. We had to wait for the right moment to jump into the boat which was rising and falling with the waves. The collie came last; it seemed an interminable time before he appeared. He was roped, and struggling as for his life; he managed to clamber back to the deck, but was pushed off again, and at last reached us in a most terrified condition, and trembling violently. It was really hard work to hold him in the boat. We were now ready to pull off. Farewells were waved and cheers given, and I think the last strains we heard were "For he's a jolly good fellow." It was not easy getting away from the ship, and it looked rather alarming as we descended and mounted with the waves. The spray kept dashing over us, and I felt it running down my neck, but before long we got into quieter water. The steamer stood by until we were out of danger, and then we saw it steaming away with the fellow-passengers who had been so kind to us. Now, indeed, we felt we were leaving the world behind us. But we could see quite a crowd awaiting us on the shore and others running down the steep cliff to the beach. We were not allowed to land until the boat was drawn up on the shingle. There we found nearly all the colony and a swarm of dogs. We struggled up the bank of shingle over wet seaweed, and went round and shook hands with the elders. Seeing we had no hats, and the veils which we were wearing in their place were wet through, two of the younger women came forward and offered Ellen and myself a coloured handkerchief to tie over our heads, and, I think, tied them on. We were much touched by this kind attention and the welcome it conveyed.
When the boat had been drawn up to its place we sang the doxology, lingered a little, and then, conducted by the inhabitants, filed up the steep rocky road to the top of the cliff and on to the grassy common. The scenery was very fine, towering mountains in the background, the settlement below with its quaint little stone, thatched houses, and the sea with its white-crested waves. We were taken to Betty Cotton's house, the first to be reached. She was there to give us a welcome. We had to bend our heads as we entered the porch, but to our surprise were led into quite a spacious room with two windows.
A large number followed us in. I felt a little shy, so many eyes were upon us, and all the conversation had to emanate from us. After a time there was a movement: the men in whose boat we had come went off to change their wet clothes.
Betty, who was seventy-six and very active, began to prepare the table for tea, and I must say the prospect of tea was most welcome. There were spectators of that meal and of many ensuing ones. Later on our friends came to see us again, and the room was packed all round. I could hear much whispering among the women in the passages: no doubt anxious discussion was going on as to our sleeping accommodation. Betty decided to sleep out; Mr. Dodgson's room was assigned to us, and the adjoining room which had no window and was more like a cupboard, to Ellen.
My husband had some talk with the people, telling them what had drawn him to Tristan and of his mother's shipwreck, and then closed with a few verses from the Bible and prayer. We were tired after our day of adventures, and thankful to retire to rest.
We woke up next morning realizing that we were at last, after more than a year of anticipation and months of travel, amongst the settlers on Tristan da Cunha.
The present settlement dates from 1816, when a garrison was sent by the Cape Government to occupy the island, as it was thought that Tristan might be used as a base by Napoleon's friends to effect his escape from St. Helena. In February 1817 the British Government determined to withdraw the garrison, and a man-of-war was dispatched to remove it. Three of the men asked to remain, the chief being William Glass of Kelso, N.B., a corporal in the Royal Artillery, who had with him his wife—a Cape coloured woman— and his two children. Later, others came to settle on the island, three by shipwreck; and some left it; the inhabitants in 1826 being seven men, two wives and two children.
Five of these men, who were bachelors, asked the captain of a whaler to bring them each a wife from St. Helena. He did his best and brought five coloured women—one a widow with four children. Of these marriages only one, I believe, turned out happily. A daughter of this marriage was Betty Cotton, our landlady. She was the eldest of seven daughters, and had five brothers. Her father, Alexander Cotton, was born at Hull, and was an old man-of-war's man, and for three years had guarded Napoleon at Longwood, St. Helena. Thomas Hill Swain, another of the five, came from Sussex and served in the Theseus under Nelson. He married the widow, and used to tell his children, of whom there were four daughters living on the island when we were there, that he was the sailor who caught Nelson when he fell at Trafalgar. This old man was vigorous to the last. At the age of one hundred and eight he was chopping wood, when a splinter flying into his eye caused his death. The result, of course, of these marriages was a coloured race. Some of the children are still very dark in appearance, but the colour is gradually dying out.
Another well-known islander, Peter William Green, came nearly twenty years later. He was a Dutch sailor, a native of Katwijk, on the North Sea, whose ship in trying to steal the islanders' sea elephant oil got in too close and was wrecked. He settled down and married one of the four daughters of the widow, and became eventually headman and marriage officer. Queen Victoria sent him a framed picture of herself, which, unfortunately, has been taken away to the Cape. He died in 1902 at the age of ninety-four.
In the next decade came Rogers and Hagan from America; and in the early nineties the two Italian sailors Repetto and Lavarello of Comogli, who were shipwrecked.
I believe the population has never numbered more than one hundred and nine. At the time of our arrival it was seventy-one, of whom only ten had ever been away from the island. The language spoken is English, but their vocabulary is limited.
The soldiers pitched their camp at the north end of a strip of land stretching about six miles in a north-westerly direction, where it is crossed by a constant stream of the purest and softest water. It is said they built two forts, one commanding Big Beach and Little Beach Bays, and one further inland to command what was thought the only approachable ascent to the mountain heights. The position of the first fort is known, the raised ground for mounting two guns being distinctly visible on the top of Little Beach Point; but the islanders do not think the second fort was ever built.
The settlers naturally chose this camp as the site for their settlement, and there they built their houses. When we arrived there were sixteen, three of which were uninhabited. They all face the sea; and run east and west. On account of the very high winds the walls are built about four feet thick at the gable ends, and about two feet at the sides. Most of the stone they are built of is porous, in consequence of which the walls on the south side are very damp and are often covered on the inside with a green slime. The houses are thatched with a reed-like grass called tussock, which is grown in the gardens or on a piece of ground near. The thatch will last from ten to fifteen years, that on the sunny side lasting considerably the longer. Turf is used to cover the ridge of the roof, but this is not altogether satisfactory as the soil works through, and when there is a gale the rooms below are thick with dust. Perhaps the dust is also caused by the innumerable wood-lice which work in the wood and make a fine wood-dust. Every house has a loft running the whole length of it. We found ours the greatest boon as it was the only place we had in which to keep the year's stores. The woodwork of nearly all the houses is from wrecked ships; boards from the decks form the flooring, masts and yards appear as beams, cabin doors give entrance to the rooms.
The houses when I first went into them struck me as most dreary; no fire, hardly any furniture, just a bare table, a wooden sofa which is nearly always used as a bed, a bench, and perhaps a chair, with a seaman's chest against the wall, a chimney-piece covered with a pinked newspaper hanging, on which stood pieces of crockery, on the walls a few pictures and ancient photographs. There are large open fire-places, but no grates or stoves, the cooking being done on two iron bars supported by fixed stones.
The rooms are divided off by wooden partitions. There are generally two bedrooms; the end one is also nearly always used as a kitchen, and the groceries are usually kept there. On account of the high winds there are generally windows only on the north of the house, which is the sunny side, due to Tristan's being south of the equator.
Every house has a garden, but not used to grow vegetables or flowers, which the people do not seem to care about, and certainly there are difficulties owing to high winds, rats, fowls, and, not least, children. They sometimes grow a few onions, cabbages and generally pumpkins: a few pink roses and geraniums may be seen. Potatoes are their staple food, and are grown in walled-in patches about three miles off. Each house has one or two huts, in one of which they stow away their potatoes, and also a lamb-house.
In the matter of clothing, the men have not much difficulty, as they barter with the sailors on passing ships, giving in exchange the skins of albatross and mollyhawks, the polished horns of oxen, small calf-skin bags and penguin mats made by the women, and occasionally wild-cat skins. They usually wear blue dungaree on week-days, and broadcloth or white duck on Sundays. With the women and children it is different, for they depend on parcels sent by friends, and as of late years there has been no regular communication with the island they have been at times very short, especially of underclothing. Now that whalers have begun to call again, two or three appearing about Christmas time, they can sometimes get material from them, but, except the dungaree, it is very poor stuff, and they have to pay a high price in exchange. The women usually have a very neat appearance, no hole is allowed to remain in a garment, which is at once patched, and many and varied are the patches. They wear blouses which they call jackets, and in the place of hats, coloured handkerchiefs (occasionally procured from ships), which are worn all day, from morning to night, and only taken off on very hot days, or when they are going to be photographed, when as a rule no amount of persuasion will induce them to keep them on. The little girls wear sun-bonnets, "capies" they call them, and very well they look in them. The little boys wear short jackets and long knickers. The women and girls card and spin their own wool, which they knit into socks and stockings.
As regards food, potatoes take the place of bread. There are about twenty acres under cultivation, each man having his own patches. They never change the seed and rarely the ground. A man may enclose as many patches as he likes provided he cultivates them. They used to manure their ground with seaweed, but found its constant use made the ground hard; then they tried guano, and finally sheep manure, which they use in large quantities. They get it by driving their sheep during the lambing season four or five times a week into the lamb-houses, penning them up from about five in the afternoon until eight or nine next morning. The poor sheep must suffer considerably both from being driven so much and because they get no food while penned in. In spite of this barbarous practice the mutton when we first went was very good—equal, we thought, to the best Welsh mutton, but latterly its quality much fell off, and we found the sheep were largely infected with scab. The people occasionally have beef in the winter. Their method of killing the ox is very cruel, for often the poor animal is chased about over the settlement by men and dogs, and only killed after many shots. There is generally a good supply of milk. Betty Cotton at one time milked sixteen cows, and made a large quantity of butter which she sent by the man-of-war to her relations at the Cape. The making of cheese has been quite given up. From July to October the men get a great number of eaglet, penguin, and mollyhawk eggs—all sea-fowl. Fish can be caught all the year round. Any groceries obtained must come from passing ships. Sometimes months go by without tea, coffee, sugar, flour, salt and soap being seen.
The cooking is done mostly in large pots and frying-pans, as there are no ovens, though a temporary one is made on special occasions such as a great feast. The chief meat dish is stuffed mutton, the stuffing consisting of potatoes and parsley seasoned with pepper and salt. The greatest delicacy is the stuffed sucking-pig which takes the place of our turkey.
The animals on the island are cattle, sheep, donkeys, pigs, geese, fowls, dogs, cats and rats. There were about seven hundred head of cattle in 1905, far more than there was pasture for. Between the months of May and November of that year nearly four hundred died from starvation. From the same cause a loss of cattle occurs every few years, but never before had there been so great a one. The number of sheep was about eight hundred; of donkeys there were about thirty, and perhaps there were as many, or more, pigs, which usually have to find their own living, as also do the geese and fowls. A great number of dogs are kept, some families keeping as many as four. Most of these too have to find their own living, which occasionally they do by hunting the sheep and by night raids on the geese.
The rats came from the Henry B. Paul which was wrecked on Tristan in 1882. Only about half-a-dozen got ashore, which Mr. Dodgson urged the men to kill, pointing out what trouble they would cause if not destroyed, but the men thought a few rats wouldn't hurt, and did nothing.
The last chapter has related some things that obviously came later to our knowledge. I now return to the order of my diary and letters.
Monday, April 9, 1906.—Betty Cotton came in early this morning to look after our wants. She was going to get us an early cup of tea, but at my suggestion made it breakfast. Later on Graham and I wandered on to the common. It was such a beautiful morning, and the sea like a mill-pond. We found many of the women washing clothes, and had a talk with several of them. The men had gone off early in three boats to fetch some of the luggage from where it had been landed about eight miles away. They were not back much before noon. Most of the women went down to meet them, and as each boat came in assisted in dragging it up. It was a most picturesque sight to see some half-dozen carts, each drawn by a pair of bullocks, wending their way down to the beach to fetch up the luggage which was lying on the shore. The small carts were slowly filled, and then the oxen were piloted up a most rough and rocky road by boys who guided them with their whips. Betty, Ellen and I watched it all from the cliff. A good deal of the luggage was piled in Betty's sitting-room, and the rest taken to John Glass's house.
Tuesday, April l0.—Today has been so wet and rough that it was impossible for the men to go for any more luggage. Happily, it is covered over with a tarpaulin from the Surrey, so we hope it will not get much damaged. That which was brought yesterday got rather wet, and we have had to unpack and dry pillows and other things. At present we are unpacking only what is absolutely necessary, which is but little.
It has been arranged for us to live in this house. Betty is kindly giving it up to us and is going to live in a room attached to the house opposite. One and another family is providing for our needs. One will come with a few eggs which are scarce now, another with apples, and a third with butter. Then at dinner-time is brought a plate of hot meat and potatoes. A plentiful supply of milk is provided, and we drink it at dinner. Although there is hardly any flour on the island they are using what little there is to make us bread.
The men have already set to to prepare the house which is to be used as church and school. A widow, Lucy Green, has generously offered it for this purpose, as she had done before in Mr. Dodgson's time.
Wednesday, April 11.—We went up this morning to the school-house and found men busy washing the painted ceiling. When we went again in the afternoon all their work was done and women were washing the floor. The Communion Table had been brought down from the loft—it needed only a little repairing. The Communion Cloth from St. Andrews [Footnote: Malvern Common, Great Malvern.] fits it almost exactly and looks so well. There is a small prayer-desk and a nice oak lectern, and we have brought from Mr. Dodgson the stone font he used. The church will be quite ready for Good Friday services.
The next work to be undertaken will be our house. The people love to come and see us, and we are not left much to ourselves. Repetto, who was shipwrecked here about fifteen years ago, was a sergeant in the Italian navy; he is an intelligent-looking man, short, with dark hair, pale face, and a slight squint. He married a Green, one of Betty's nieces, and has six children. Some of the men and women are fine-looking people. The weather has prevented any more luggage being fetched.
Thursday, April l2.—It has been the same today. The men have started on the house. To make our bedroom a little larger the partition has been moved back so as to take in a piece of the kitchen. Our cases are being used to re-floor the bedroom and passage, which had a large hole in it. A partition will be taken down in Ellen's room, which will then open out on to the front door, and a curtain is to be hung across the opening. The walls of the bedrooms are covered with illustrated papers, which here take the place of wallpaper. Two girls have been helping to tear these off, and the walls will be whitewashed. We brought lime and brushes from the Cape. The doors have the most primitive and varied fastenings, and one a bit of rope in the place of a handle. Many panes in the windows are cracked, and one or two have departed altogether. There is a front and a back entrance. Along the front of the house runs a path, on the other side of which, with a wall between, is the garden. This is fairly large and is bounded by stone walls and a hedge of flax. From its appearance it has had no cultivation for some years. As far as I can see the only sign of any crop besides weeds is an entangled strawberry patch. There is a good view of the sea from the house and garden. I spent most of the morning, which was a fine one, in a sheltered corner by the brook, where Ellen was washing a few clothes. I had previously done a little washing too. We already feel at home, and I am sure we shall settle down happily. We find Tristan far more beautiful than we expected; the mountains seem very near and are most imposing, and the light on them at times is very beautiful. Little rivulets are to be seen coursing down close to the houses. They have been diverted from the main stream—known as the "Big Watering." We have one just outside the back door, and not many yards away the Big Watering itself.
Good Friday, April 13.—We got up at 6.30. Ellen and I are sleeping in our deck-chairs in the sitting-room. Graham goes out first thing to fetch water for our baths, as we have not enough utensils to lay in a store the night before. Life is delightfully primitive here.
A man named John Glass is to be the church clerk, and he appeared about eight o'clock to carry the harmonium up to the church; service was at 10.30. No one went into church until we arrived; groups of men and women were waiting on the common in their Sunday clothes, the women looking so picturesque in bright garments. The church room was packed. We learnt afterwards that every man, woman and child was present except old Caroline Swain, who is an invalid; we were seventy-four in all. We had a very simple and short service, Graham explaining as he went along what we were to do. Every one was most reverent and all knelt. There were four hymns, and how they enjoyed the singing of them! It was surprising how well they got on. The women all said, "Good-morning, marm," as they entered the church. At first it was difficult to understand what they said, but now I am more able to do so. On our way home we met Betty Cotton, who said, "It's the best 'Sunday' I have had since Mr. Dodgson left." She is a dear old body, and is making it her mission to look after us.
People have been in and out most of the day. Graham proposed to some men who came to see him that they should take a walk up the mountain, so they went up the Goat Ridge, which is quite near, and climbed about nine hundred feet. Ellen and I went down to the seashore where there is a strong smell of seaweed. The sand is black, which is owing to the volcanic origin of Tristan. The cliffs at this spot are lovely with overhanging green, and with a very pretty waterfall, caused by the Big Watering finding its way over the cliff into the sea. This waterfall marks the settlement landing-place. Rebekah Swain, aged twenty-eight, came up and asked if it would be "insulting" if she came and sat by us. I had my hymn-book with tunes, and so we chose the hymns for Easter Sunday. She held the pages down as I turned them over, for the wind was blowing, and told me what hymns the people knew. She is the daughter of Mrs. Susan Swain, who has been teaching the children. She took us for a walk along the shore and by a new way up the cliff. Seeing Ellen was tired, she said, "If you will take my arm, I will take you along." She also said, "The missus can go quick," as she saw me clambering up the cliff. She invited us up to her mother's house, who insisted upon our having a cup of tea, which was drunk in the presence of many spectators, for the room soon began to fill. Mrs. Swain showed me letters which she had received from ladies in England. She herself cannot write. When I got home I found Graham entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Lavarello. They had come with milk and a loaf of bread. They bake the loaf in an iron pot with a lid, on which they light the fire. Lavarello is one of the shipwrecked Italians. Ruth Swain, a girl of seventeen, next came in, then two little boys, and finally Mrs. Repetto. The people have so intermarried, and there are so many of the same name, that it is difficult to distinguish one person from another, but we are learning to do so gradually. There is an intense eagerness among the elders that their children shall get some "larning." The remaining luggage has not yet come.
Saturday, April l4.—It has been a wet day. The men have been very busy in the sitting-room, so we spent most of our time in the bedroom, which is more than half-full of cases and baggage. Repetto has just had supper with us, and has been telling all about Captain Kerry's visit in the Pandora.
On Easter Sunday we had eight o'clock Communion; twelve were present. As there are no Communion rails we knelt in front of two forms. Almost every family has provided a form which just gives the necessary seating accommodation. The next service was at 10:30. I am so glad we brought prayer-books and hymn-books, as not many seem to possess them. We were again struck with the heartiness of the singing. Graham spoke a few simple words on the Resurrection. All the babies were brought to church, and there was a little crying. There was one very fat child of thirteen months that has something wrong with it, for it cannot sit up. I noticed also a man with no forearms, but with terribly deformed fingers where the elbow would be.
This afternoon we had baptisms; there were four children to be baptized, and a fifth to be received into the congregation. One of the mothers, a Mrs. Hagan, came in before the service to ask if Ellen "would come along with her to church." Graham could not make out what she meant; it was, would Ellen be god-mother to her baby boy. It was a large assembly that stood round the small font. The children were young enough for Graham to take in his arms. As the people stayed on while he wrote the particulars in the register, I played hymns to them. When we got back at about 4:20 we had visitors till 6:30. They are so pleased to have some one to talk to; the men come in as much as, if not more than, the women.
I must not forget to record that we had rather a disturbed night on Saturday. First, there was heavy rain and it came through the ceiling close to where Ellen was sleeping; then the cat caught a rat under the table, and Rob went for her wishing to share the spoil. This is the first rat I have seen here, though I have heard them in the house. They are in shoals all over the mountains, and eat the fruit in the orchards. There have been no peaches for years, and there used to be bushels of them. The people say it is owing to the rats. Graham has spoken seriously to the men, and told them they should have one day a week for an onslaught. They did try it one year, and say it made a perceptible difference in the number.
It was decidedly cold when we first got here, making us glad to have warm things, and in the evening we appreciated our large open hearth and wood fire. To-day it is much warmer.
Wednesday, April l8.—On Monday, though not a very good day, the men went in two boats to fetch more luggage. Unfortunately it came on to rain hard. In landing on the shore where it is stored they nearly lost their boats, the surf was so heavy. We spent the morning in pasting strips of calico along the cracks of the ceiling in our sitting-room; it was rather a business, but Rebekah came in and helped. At present there is no getting a rest in the middle of the day, for there is no quiet spot for it.
On Monday night we again heard the rats scampering about overhead, and this morning early Graham was much pleased to find five in the wire trap on the kitchen window-ledge; one eventually escaped. Through the night we had heard the cat crunching rats close by.
Yesterday upon opening a case we found three pillows and a mattress had got wet. If the wetting is from salt water they will have to be soaked in fresh. The other pillows that got wet have not felt dry since, but still I have had to lie upon them; the deck-chairs are in the same state.
We are living in such a muddle, our things being heaped up against the wall. Presently they will have to be removed to another room while this one is whitewashed and then back again. To find things is almost an impossibility. By the end of the week we hope to be much straighter. All the men have worked with a will. This morning they fetched the remaining luggage from the shore, and this afternoon have been working hard at the house. I went down with my camera and took photographs of the boats unloading and of the ox-wagons which had gone to bring up the luggage. The women came down with hot coffee and tea for the men.
Graham picked up the other day an old porthole window with the glass unbroken, and it has been used for the house. Many of the people's possessions are from shipwrecks. I noticed what nice white jugs they bring our milk in; it seems a case of these was found on a wrecked ship. They have also a good deal of glass and china from the same source.
Friday, April 20.—It was such a hot day yesterday, just like summer. The fatigue of such a day is felt all the more because there is hardly a resting-place for the sole of one's foot. To-day has been wet. The men have been finishing the house, and have fixed the stove in the kitchen. Repetto and Swain have managed the piping splendidly, and out of tins have made plates to place over the woodwork which the pipe passes through. An old bucket has been placed round the piping near the roof as an extra safeguard against fire. Our bedrooms have been whitewashed, and to-morrow we hope to move our things into them. I really find a deck-chair most comfortable; lined with pillows it does splendidly as a bed.
We like the people; they are generous and kind. Repetto is most helpful. This afternoon he has been fixing the washing-stands. Every one is so interested in seeing anything new; the stove especially is an object of great interest.
Saturday, April 2l.—It has been very wet. The men have now finished the house, and we have devoted ourselves to getting things a little more shipshape.
I gave Repetto the material A—— had sent, telling him to divide it amongst all the families; he was very grateful. They do need clothing so badly; some of their clothes are much patched. They all wear white stockings. The women are very good knitters, and are nearly always to be seen with knitting in their hands, even in their walks to and from the potato patches. I wish they could throw as much energy into cleaning their houses, only one or two of which are kept clean. Their shoes (moccasins) are made of cow's hide and are most quaint. They are made of one piece, with a seam up the front and at the heel. Little slits are cut round the edge of the shoe and a string run in to tie on with. As there is no leather sole their feet must always be in a wet condition in rainy weather. It rains so much that the thickest boots are needed to keep the feet dry. The need of these has just been brought home to us by a flood at our back door caused by the stream overflowing. Graham has now got Bob Green to divert it, which is a great improvement. The pathway, too, in front of the house at one end becomes a pool after rain. The other night I splashed right into it, and it took me days to get my house shoes dry. Tom Rogers, however, is draining it.
The house being very damp on the south side, we have to keep almost everything in the sitting-room on the other side. Our bedrooms which are in the middle of the house and cut off by a passage from the south side are the two driest rooms. Graham and Repetto have been busy hauling up cases into the loft and opening others which looked damp; happily most of the stores are in tins. They have also been putting up the beds, which required some fixing. Ash poles at the sides and ends are fitted into six wooden legs, over which canvas is laced. We find them quite comfortable. Our red blankets look very well against the whitewashed walls. We are by no means straight yet, but well on the way to being so.
Sunday, April 22.—Wet all day. It has been difficult to keep dry-shod going backwards and forwards to church over the wet common and across little rivulets. We had three services: the Holy Communion at eight o'clock, to which four came; morning prayer at 10.30, when the church was about half full; and a children's service at three. Graham is acting on a suggestion of the Bishop and catechizing the children instead of having Sunday school. As the elders come too, instruction by this means is given to both. With a view to keeping better order an elder was asked to sit on each bench with the children. These sat with folded hands, and their behaviour was very good; by a little encouragement answers were got out of two or three of them. We had no harmonium, as it was too wet to bring it up from the house.
Living as these people do in such an out-of-the-world spot, I am surprised at the level they have reached. There is a quiet dignity about them, and their manners are excellent. No doubt Mr. Dodgson has done much for them, and they have a very warm remembrance of him. I never had so many "Marms" in my life; and the other evening one little boy, on leaving the room, wanting to say something polite, said to me, "Good-night, Mary."
Sunday, April 29.—Yesterday and to-day it was blowing gales. To get to eight o'clock Communion was not easy. A heavy shower came on as we started. Ellen threw a cape over her head, I a Shetland shawl over my hat. In a short space of time we were fairly wet and reached church breathless and panting, for it was up-hill and the wind against us. John Glass, the clerk, came to meet us to offer his help. There were seven or eight present. Returning it was worse; the wind was at our backs, and at different times Ellen and I were blown down like ninepins. I have since been told by the people, "When you hear a puff coming, stand or duck till it is over and then go on." On these windy days the dust and litter that come from the thatch are difficult to cope with.
This afternoon we had a practice after service. There are one or two hymns in which the islanders go quite astray; for example, "There is a green hill" and "Christ who once amongst us." They have gone wrong, I fear, so many years that the task of getting them to go right is almost an impossible one. We tried a chant, but they seemed to think, as it was not the one taught by Mr. Dodgson, it could not be right. They say he was very musical and could sing any part. The men are anxious to sing in parts themselves. After the service we took Rob for a run, then three of the men turned up and did not depart till after six o'clock. We usually have three meals a day: breakfast, dinner and supper, but on Sundays generally allow ourselves afternoon tea.
Monday, April 30.—We were so busy all the past week, and many evenings worked till quite late trying to get straight. It has taken a longer time because there is so little space. Our sitting-room looks quite cosy. We have half partitioned off a portion of it with a green stoep blind which we bought at the Cape, and in the private part thus left have laid down a white matting, and really at night with a lamp and a fire it looks very bright and cheerful.
During the turmoil of the week we have had the usual stream of visitors. Early one afternoon Mrs. Hagan and another mother appeared with their babies and stayed two hours or more. I finally went on with my work of unpacking the storage box. At the same time they are always ready to help; for instance, the other day, when I was doing some washing, Mrs. Lavarello coming in, at once began upon it, and then went to help Rebekah with more at the watering.
Our first attempt at making bread has not been a success. The loaf was as heavy as lead, and uneatable. Rob had most of it. Not dismayed we set to to prepare a sponge-cake for the next day. The result was good. The following day I tried self-raising flour, and the result was even better. The fourth trial, yesterday, was as complete a failure as the first, due to the high wind which prevented the oven getting hot. Flour is so precious we are eating the loaf ourselves this time, and, wonderful to say, have not had indigestion.
It has been arranged for each family in turn to bring us weekly supplies. Graham felt the people ought to provide a certain amount, and that anything beyond that we could pay for. So we made out the following list. As there are seventeen families, with one exception the same family will only have to serve us three times in the year. They will not hear of our paying anything.
Meat, 12 lbs. Fish (three times a week). Milk, 14 quarts. Butter, 1 1/2 lbs. (in the summer 2 lbs., fresh). Eggs, 2 dozen (when in season). Potatoes, 7 lbs. Firewood.
Graham busied himself most of yesterday in making a meat-safe. He found some old tin which he perforated and fixed on to a wooden crate.
Tuesday, May 1.—Graham began school today at 9:30. There were thirty-five scholars—eighteen boys and seventeen girls—their ages ranging from twenty-one to three years. I went up at eleven o'clock to teach the infants. It is difficult to get off earlier, as I have a good deal to do in the house. We rise at 6:30 and breakfast at eight. Rob scrambled into school, although told not to come in, and sat under the children's form, which a little discomposed them, and made some of them anxious about their legs. At twelve o'clock the school dispersed.
When we were leaving we heard a gun go off and saw groups of people standing about on high positions. I was told they were shooting a wild bullock. There did not seem much wildness about the poor black creature. I was glad to turn my back on it all.
We have had a little peace lately as regards the rats. At one time I feared there would not be a night without an episode. One night we were just going off to sleep when I heard noises above. Graham was up in a minute, thrust on his clothes, and hastened, lantern in hand, up the ladder into the loft where he found a poor rat caught in a trap. We will leave the rest. This sort of thing is just a little disconcerting as you are getting off to sleep. Another night he was catching the wood-lice creeping over our bedroom walls, and must have caught fifty. I am rather thankful when he is too tired for these raids. The houses are also infested with fleas.
Ellen and I have both had presents of white stockings which we are wearing, and find most warm and comfortable. They look so old-fashioned, but I intend to wear them.
The bread to-day which I had made was burnt almost to a cinder. We still have long visitations from the people, who generally come from five to 6.30; supper in consequence has often to wait. It is wonderful how much there is to do in a small house like this.
This afternoon we visited the little cemetery. It is surrounded by rough-hewn blocks of stone. These once formed the walls of a church which Mr. Dodgson induced the men to start building, but they took such a long time over it, he felt it would never be finished, and so told them they could use the stones as a wall for the cemetery. Here and there are little wooden crosses, and such quaintly written inscriptions, the letters being picked out in tin nailed to the cross or stone. The tombstone of William Glass is the most imposing. It is of marble, and was sent by his sons in America.
We are not nearly straight yet; the difficulty is where to put everything. There is one small cupboard in the sitting-room, but only bottles can be kept in it as it is so damp. I keep some of the stores in my old school-box in the ante-room.
Graham has been writing for the people to the King, to thank him for the message which he sent them through Lord Crawford.
Monday, May 7.—We do all our writing in the evening. Since we have been here three ships have been sighted. One was four-masted and came in quite close. It was a misty day with a rough sea. This last week the weather has been delightful, sunshine day after day with very little wind.
Last evening after church we went for a walk accompanied by the two bachelors of the island, Tom Rogers and Bill Green. We went westward over a rocky common to get a view of Inaccessible. We could see it most clearly. It was my first view of it. It did not look far off, but is in reality about twenty-five miles away. There was a most beautiful sunset, the sea being quite lit up.
We are settling down to our daily routine. I go up to school each day at 10.30 now and take Class II in writing for half-an-hour before the infants. I have had to drop "pen pointing to the shoulder." Some of the children are very attractive.
Not counting our household of three, there are now seventy-two people on the island—thirteen men, the eldest being forty-nine; twenty women, the eldest about eighty; and thirty-nine children. There are four families of Swains, not including old Caroline Swain, the invalid; three of Greens, not including the bachelor Bill Green; and two of Rogers. Mrs. Sam Swain, sister of Tom Rogers, has five daughters whose ages run from twenty-one to nine years. She lost a girl of twelve about two years ago from asthma. The Repettos are nice children and very intelligent. A boy of fifteen, William Rogers, who is very staid, comes every morning to fetch water and chop wood. He is so anxious to learn. Sometimes he has to go to work, but he comes to school whenever he can. He has most curious sight: in the daytime he can see all right, but at night, even in a lighted room, is not able to see a thing that is handed to him; he says he is "night blind." This afternoon we invited Betty Cotton, of whom we have not seen much lately, in to tea. I think it gave her great satisfaction. She has been in need of spectacles, and I was able to suit her with a pair.
Rob got into disgrace a few days ago. When out with Ellen he suddenly rushed off up the mountainside and chased a sheep to the cliff. It was so frightened it jumped down about thirty or forty feet and fell on its side panting and bleeding. Happily, it was not seriously hurt. The owner, Andrew Hagan, has not made much of the occurrence. I am glad to say he at once rode off on his donkey in search of it. Graham went too, and not finding the sheep, took Rob to some others and gave him a thorough whipping. We carry a whip when we take him out now. What he loves is a run on the sea-shore where he can scamper about after sea-birds. We like a sea blow too, and there is not such a feeling of loneliness on the shore here as there is at many seaside places.
Wednesday, May 9.—Today has been rather an eventful one. Rain began to fall early, was still falling when Graham went off to school, and before long began to come down in a deluge. At first Ellen and I were kept fully occupied getting basins and pans, as the rain was coming through the roof and ceilings in all directions; in several places in the sitting-room, in the bedrooms, and in the kitchen where it was pouring down the walls. We hardly had breathing time before a fresh place was discovered. Then I heard Ellen call me to come and look. She was gazing out of the passage window at the brook which had now become a torrent. It was sweeping past the house, and spread out like a flood up to the very walls. Streams were flowing down the mountain; it was a scene of water. I heard a distant sound like thunder, which afterwards we learnt was a body of water that had descended from the mountain and cut a gully of—I do not know now many feet deep and broad; carrying away the bullock road across Hottentot Gulch and two poor sheep. About noon the rain abated. Bob Green, a near neighbour, very kindly came in while it was still pouring to reassure us. But Ellen and I were not at all alarmed; we just thought it was an ordinary event. It seems, however, the people cannot remember another such deluge. In the afternoon the sun came out and Graham and I, escorted by William and Johnny Green went to look at the deep channel the rush of water had made. We met several mothers who had been to the spot. The chasm will have to be filled up and a new road made. Repetto and Andrew Swain have been in for a chat this evening. The former said when he looked down upon this cottage it appeared to be standing in a pond.
I am getting to know the children now. Some of them in appearance might be little English boys and girls. Charlie Green, a brown boy of about four years, is quite a character, but almost impossible to teach; he guesses at everything. If you ask him what letter you are pointing to, he gazes in your face and guesses, and if you tell him he must look at the letter and not guess, he does the same again, and will interrupt others to guess wrong; his cheeks all the time are dimpled with laughter and his eyes dancing with merriment. To see him do his physical exercises, especially arms to the shoulder, when he pushes out his round little chest, is too comical.
By the second Sunday the bell given by the congregation of St. Andrews was up. It has been hung in the loft of the church. It rings for church and school and has a very good tone.
Sunday, May l3.—The 10.30 and three o'clock services are attended by nearly every one. Graham reads and speaks very slowly so that the people may take in what is said. This morning he spoke on the verse beginning "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." We find the people much more intelligent than we expected.
We had Sunday visitors as usual, namely, John Glass, his wife, and Bob Green. They stayed on and on and it was getting towards seven o'clock. Bob was the first to leave, but soon came back and called Glass, saying something about a fire. We went out and saw such a blaze close at hand. Lavarello's lamb-house, which is a long, low, thatched hut, was on fire. A strong south-west wind was blowing, and sparks were flying in countless numbers. A few fell round this house, but the house in real danger was John Glass's, which is next to ours. The sparks were raining on the thatch, and in the glare we could see figures running about and emptying buckets of water on the roof. Graham went off to help. The fire burnt furiously for a time, and I could feel the heat of it as I was standing at our back door. Before very long it began to go down, though sparks were still flying about. Happily, Lavarello had been able to get his sheep out in time. It will be rather a loss for him as wood is not easy to get. The fire is thought to have originated by Henry Green losing his cap in the wind, and getting a fire-brand to look for it, a spark from which must have been blown on to the tussock roof.
It is curious how, whenever a ship is boarded, colds go the round of the settlement. We were talking to Repetto about this, and he told us he did not at first believe it, but has seen it proved again and again. The usual thing has happened after the visit of the Surrey, and many are now laid up with colds. The other day John Glass asked for some brandy for his wife, who was one of the first to succumb. We knew it would not do to begin giving brandy for such an ailment, yet felt we must prescribe something. By a bright inspiration Graham suggested a teaspoonful of glycerine in hot milk, to be taken at bedtime. This proved most efficacious, and is so appreciated now that the applicants are many. Rebekah Swain told me today that after taking it she had never coughed again! Half a good-sized bottle has already gone. One day Repetto came for a remedy for his rheumatism, brought on by exposure to cold and wet. I went to the medicine chest to see what it could produce, and found the very medicine for his case. A day or two later, inquiring after him, I heard he was very poorly, and began to wonder if the tabloids were answerable for this. However, the next day he was much better, and told me they had eased the pain at once.
Thursday, May l7.—Every one is looking out expectantly for a ship, and many letters are waiting to be dispatched by it. About thirty were entrusted to us by people on the Surrey, who wished to have them sent off from her as a matter of interest. I have printed "Tristan da Cunha" on the envelopes. Every one places great hope in a man-of-war coming in December.
The people are now living on meat and potatoes, varied with fish. They have no flour, and I should say are oftener without it than with it. They get so tired of the same food. Crawfish, which answer to our lobsters, seem to be plentiful and are quite a treat. Rebekah the other evening caught about a bushel, and says she has caught as many as five bushels at a time.
We are touched by the way in which the people give us of their little. Mrs. Sam Swain brought us som carbonate of soda—called here "salaradus"— for making bread, as we had failed in a yeast we had tried. Another Mrs. Swain brought us some more, and on my saying we did not like to take it, her mother, Mrs. Rogers, said, "We are pleased to do all we can for you." The people are so gratified at having their children taught. A Mrs. Hagan began bringing us tea and milk each day in the school interval. We thanked her, but would not let her go on doing it.
It is amusing to watch the boys bringing their cows home to be milked; often they hang on to their tails. The cow sometimes has a contrary fit and will run in the wrong direction; the boy hangs on till the cow thinks better of it and turns in the right direction. The cows are small and very thin. In the winter many die for want of food, and this winter, I fear, there will be a great scarcity of grass as the late flood brought down a great deal of mud on the west side of the island. The people grow nothing to feed their cattle with in the winter. Their sheep do very well as they can climb to higher pastures. Ben Swain, the man with deformed arms, does chiefly shepherd's work. He is a son of Susan Swain the school-mistress. Although about thirty-five years old, on wet days he intends coming to school, and started yesterday. He was taught by Mr. Dodgson to write, which he does kneeling down and holding the pen in both hands. His sister, Rebekah, also comes occasionally. I now take Classes I and II in writing; it is really hard work as I have to be constantly looking at each Pupil. I should like to visit the people, but have not been able to do much in that way yet.
Monday, May 2l.—We have had such a lovely day, just like summer; it is hard to believe winter is approaching.
Before school we were busy doing laundry work. The children are getting on so well with their lessons. On Sunday Graham catechizes them on the Scripture they have been taught in the week, and their answers are excellent. I am getting quite fond of the infants. Charlie is very fascinating; he has such a dark little face, straight black hair, large brown eyes and such a comical expression. After some weeks of teaching he has at last learnt A, but is quite ready to call it B. I have made up my mind to devote my energies to the older infants. The parents are so anxious their children should get on, and already Graham has been sent two canes by two mothers, who were anxious they should be used. The people often relate how Mr. Dodgson used the cane upon boys and girls.
This afternoon Graham and I went down to the shore and watched with much interest Bob Green and his wife fishing from the rocks. Sophy Rogers and Charlie, who was caressing the dog, were with them. Bob was catching crawfish with a line without any hook, just a piece of meat tied on at the end with a stone to weight it. He generally caught two at a time, and had by the end a sack full. Ellen had been fishing with Mary Repetto, and they caught eight.
There was such a happy scene here a few days ago. Graham was paving the pathway in front of the house with big flat stones and had a bevy of little boys helping. I much delighted them by giving each one an acorn to plant. Next day I asked Charlie what he done with his. He replied, "It's in a pawt."
Wednesday, May 23.—This afternoon I have been very busy planting. The boys came early, and Graham went down with them to the beach to get a load of stones for paving. To the delight of the boys, the bottom of the "bus" came out in crossing the stream, and all the stones fell into the water. I saw the little boys hurrying up to the house, each carrying a wet stone. "Bus" is the island word for "wheelbarrow." While the paving was going on, I thought with William's assistance I would plant ferns in the wall. Hearing roots were wanted the children began bringing all sorts. Before school some nasturtiums were brought, then Sophy came with a large pink geranium. There is a little berry (the crowberry) they eat here which I think rather nasty; roots of this were brought, and also some sweetbriar and wild geranium which has a very sweet smell. What especially pleased me was a plant much resembling the blackberry. Gifts so poured in, it was really difficult to know where to plant them all. Yesterday we put in some strawberry plants.
I have been trying plaiting the leaves of the flax plant, which grows luxuriantly here, and making a mat of them. I sewed the plaits together with strips from the leaf. I am going to use the mat in church for the boards are very hard to kneel upon. It is green and looks very artistic. I contemplate making mats for the house, and with assistance might do enough for the church. One or two old folk still have the kneelers given them by Mr. Dodgson,
Ascension Day, May 24.—A most lovely day and very hot. We had a short school and then at eleven o'clock the children were all marched to Repetto's house where there is a flagstaff. The flag had been run up, it being Empire Day, and, marshalling us beneath it, Graham taught boys and girls how to "hurrah." He was in his element. Afterwards he gave the boys a lesson in skipping, and quite surprised me by his agility. One or two tried and much enjoyed it, but the rest were too shy. Later on William came to ask for another rope, and looking out of the passage window I saw a group of boys watching big Ben the crippled man who was skipping with intense enjoyment, and leaping about two feet into the air.
At three o'clock we had service. Some fifty were present. Most of the men were at work. Glass, for one, had been for wood and had had to swim round the Bluff. He brought back some eaglet eggs, and sent us three which we had for supper. They are about as big as a duck's egg, white in colour, and of a slightly fishy taste. The fowls are not laying now. The weekly supply arrangement is working well. I think eventually we may have a cow.
Saturday, May 26.—We are only about fifty minutes behind Greenwich time.
Monday, May 28.—There was such a lovely sunset this evening; the sea was the colour of indigo, in striking contrast to the sunlit sky.
Tuesday, May 29.—As we were sitting down to breakfast we heard a ship was in sight, but to our disappointment were almost immediately told that it was too far east to catch. Another, a large four-masted one, was sighted in the afternoon; but we were again disappointed, for it was too breezy to put out to her.
Whit Monday, June 4.—A change has set in; it was quite cold this morning. I started laundry work directly after breakfast, and had all the things out on the line in good time, but could not get up to school till eleven o'clock.
It is curious what a difficulty even some of the bigger children have in doing the simplest addition. To add one on to three is at times an impossible task. But if you say three cows are in the yard and one more comes in, how many are there then? their brain begins to clear.
I had quite an alarm this afternoon. Old Mrs. Rogers came in to say Graham was up in a "tight" place on the mountain, and that the men had gone to rescue him. Accompanied by her and Mrs. Repetto, Ellen and I set forth towards Big Beach; others followed, and some stayed on the cliff to watch. Glass. Ben, and Will Rogers had gone to warn Graham. Before long we could see him returning with them. He had not got into any difficulty, but the men had thought it was not a safe part to go to alone. We had intended going that way to-morrow for a Whitsuntide holiday, but the men think it unwise, so we are going in the opposite direction towards the potato patches which we have not yet seen. An opinion expressed at Cape Town of the people by one who had lately visited them does not at all coincide with our experience. They were described as "a ruffianly-looking lot," and the speaker was sure "there was one man at least who had had his knife into some one."
Thursday, June 7.—After all we did not get the Whitsuntide holiday, for I was too busy. Ellen was in bed all yesterday with a bad headache and was lying down most of the day before. So I have had the housework and cooking to do. Graham helped before breakfast by cleaning the kitchen stove, and afterwards by washing up after meals and undertaking the saucepans! I only missed school one day. The elder infants are getting on nicely; the parents of some are teaching them at home, and they are beginning now to read small words. Most of the girls bring their knitting, and during the interval sit on stones under the low wall and knit away till the bell rings for them to go in again. I used to take mine, but devote the time now to ruling slates. I am teaching Rebekah to write. Her writing is so impossible I have had to start her with letters on the slate, and she very sensibly does not resent this. To-day many visitors have been to inquire after Ellen; they certainly are kind-hearted.
William, our factotum, is a thoughtful and kind boy. If anything is given to him he shares it with his half-brothers. He comes three or four times a day to ask if he can do anything, and generally when we are having a mid-day rest! In the morning if he hears Graham has gone off to school he is after him like a shot.
The people are extracting salt from the sea-water. They take large barrels in ox-wagons to the shore to be filled, then they boil the water for twenty-four hours, in fact till it is all boiled away. They use this salt, when they have no other, for their butter, which it does not at all improve; but the butter brought to us is generally unsalted. They never make salt unless driven to it because the process involves the burning of so much wood. They also make a black-looking soap, but very rarely, as it takes days and nights to make, and requires not only much wood, but also a good deal of fat which they can ill spare.
We have had many requests for envelopes, and today were asked for paraffin, and also for flour for a sick baby. So far we have found the people more ready to give than to ask. Another pair of stockings was presented today, an offering from Mrs. Glass on her seventieth birthday.
The only word used for "afraid" is "skeered," and today when I asked the infants why Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees in the garden, one answered, "Because they were skeered."
Repetto is a pupil of Graham's, and comes every Friday evening to read English. He finds the pronunciation rather a difficulty. He has quite a library, from which he has selected as a suitable book to lend to Graham, William Penn's Fruits of Solitude in Reflections and Maxims. He is making a cover for the harmonium out of two calf skins so that in wet weather it can be taken to church.
Sunday, June l0.—It was so windy today that Ellen and I went to church wearing white silk handkerchiefs instead of hats. I felt a little shy at being thus equipped, but soon got over it.
Wednesday, June l3.—We have begun a weekly singing practice for the school children; and as it is not always possible to take up the harmonium we do without it, depending on a tuning-fork which was given to Ellen at St. Helena. With some labour we have taught them a "Gloria" and a "Venite." On the whole they are quick in learning a tune, but it must first be sung to them. At to-day's practice two mothers appeared upon the scene to see what we were doing. Some of the boys did not turn up, and I heard afterwards that two parents had given their sons a "tanning," as they expressed it, for not coming; and that this was so effectually administered that one of the truants hid under a cart to conceal his feelings.
Wednesday, June 13 (continued).—On Monday we went for an expedition to the top of Burntwood. Burntwood is a grass-covered mountain slope at the other end of the settlement, and is the easiest ascent to the Base. By "the Base" the islanders mean the top of the cliffs which gird the island, and which rise one thousand to two thousand feet. William appeared early in the morning to say he had collected several donkeys and could get saddles for them. At nine o'clock we started forth, Graham, Ellen, William and I riding, Charlotte and Rebekah walking. It was decidedly difficult to keep one's balance on a man's saddle. The reins—or rather what took the place of them—consisted of a rope tied round the donkey's neck. We had a ride of five miles over a rocky common and down some very steep pitches. Graham gave us all much amusement. His donkey stumbled twice in succession, and he went right over its head. At the bottom of the hill we tethered the donkeys, and at once began the ascent. The distance up was said to be two miles, which took us about two hours to climb. The first part was over grassy mounds, but the latter portion involved a real scramble. We had to stoop to get under trees, and to push through thick brushwood, while in places it was so steep we had to get on our knees and be pulled up. To make matters worse the ground was very soppy. We arrived at the top somewhat exhausted. Graham spread his mackintosh and I lay down on it thankful to rest. There was thick brushwood of phylica, of fern and crowberry all round, and, tired as we were, I felt we could not make our way through this. Graham and William went in search of water and soon procured some. We had for luncheon captain's biscuits and chocolate, eaten under a scorching sun. We had a beautiful view, and could see Nightingale and Inaccessible quite clearly, the former island looking much the more rugged. We stayed up about two hours. Graham and William went off in search of eaglet eggs. They only secured one. The poor hen which they caught was given its freedom, but unfortunately the dogs got hold of it.
Coming down was easy enough at first, but there came a time when I felt I could do no more; the power seemed to have gone out of my legs, and really, without help I do not know how I should have got down. At the bottom of the hill we saw a cheerful fire burning. Charlotte had got down first and was brewing tea. She and Rebekah had on their own initiative brought a saucepan, tea and milk. We started home about 4.30 when it was already getting dusk. Before long it was quite dark, but the donkeys knew their way. It took us about two hours to get to the settlement. Two or three men came out to meet us, and nearer home at Hottentot Gulch we were met by quite a party who were carrying a lantern—Mrs. Swain and Mrs. Rogers brought us some tea, which we drank sitting on our donkeys. I found riding sideways on a man's saddle rather tiring, and I think we were all glad to get home. Mrs. Bob Green also most kindly sent us in a brew of tea. There were many inquiries as to how we had enjoyed the expedition, to which we could honestly say very much, though for the next day or two we felt very stiff.
Thursday, June l4.—We are having a spell of cold weather. There is snow on the mountains, and a good deal of hail has fallen. It is difficult to keep warm at night.
Friday, June l5.—A beautiful day, but a cold wind. We sat up late last night over the fire warming our feet.
Monday, June l8.—We shall be very glad when we get our letters off, for we know how anxious our people must be to hear. A ship was sighted yesterday far to the east. Graham said he thought he saw one when coming from early Communion, but I could see nothing.
Yesterday (Sunday) it was so dark at the end of afternoon service that we could not have the practice, so it has been settled to have service at two o'clock, an hour which seems to suit the people better. The singing is improving. We managed the "Venite" very well, and now mean to try the "Te Deum." I intend to teach them a chant with three changes in it. In the end perhaps we shall sing the Psalms. Yesterday the children sang with much vigour "There's a Friend for little children." One little girl whose voice could be heard above all the rest had a "strapping" from her father when she got home for singing too loud, poor little thing!
To-day the men put up a washing-stone at the east end of the house. Each house has one near the water. The clothes to be washed are soaped, rubbed and slashed on it. The women often come and help Ellen to wash, and to-day Rebekah carried off some things for her mother to iron. I do my own things myself outside the front door. Graham has been busy to-day whitewashing the kitchen, and looked so comical in one of Ellen's aprons and with a handkerchief tied over his head.
Mrs. Martha Green, Betty's sister, came to see us this afternoon. Poor woman, she has never recovered from the shock of the boat accident. She then lost her husband, two sons, two brothers, and, I believe, two brothers-in-law. She presented me with a pair of stockings, the fourth pair I have had given me, and Graham with a pair of socks, and said we were to tell her when we were in want of more. She lives with her married son Henry Green, and is the mother of Mrs. Repetto.
We fear a great part of our garden will be useless, as there is so much white mould in it which rots the roots of the plants. The only way to get rid of this mould which spreads very quickly is to burn it or cart it away, so the people say.
Tuesday, June 19.—Rebekah came in on Sunday for some glycerine for her mother who suffers from asthma, or, as the people would say, "ashmere." Her mother has taken it two nights running, and found it gave her much relief. It will now be believed in more than ever.
Friday, June 22.—On Wednesday night Glass came in to ask Graham if he would go round the island with him and Tom Rogers. Graham was a little doubtful at first on account of the school, but I promised to take it and so he settled to go. They started off when it was only just light at six o'clock on Thursday morning on three donkeys.
Ellen came up to help me with the school, and I managed all right. We had an early lunch and spent the afternoon in needlework on the sea-shore. We had planned a cosy evening, but at about six o'clock Mrs. Glass and Rebekah with Mabel Hagan and Florence appeared. They said something about spending the evening with us and stayed two hours much enjoying themselves. Early this afternoon Mary Repetto came in with some wood and told me the party were returning. I ran out to find Graham unsaddling his donkey. He had had a fall over its head, but was none the worse. The donkey, it seems, took a deep step as its rider was gazing at the scenery. Graham looked tired, but said he had had a most enjoyable time. They rode to just below Burntwood, where we were the other day; there they tethered their donkeys and ascended the mountain to get past a bluff, and then descended to the shore, along which they had a walk of about three miles over boulders and stones. The two men made nothing of this walk, but Graham says it was hard work for one unaccustomed to it, because it not only bruised the feet but every step had to be chosen. They spent the night in a cave on the beach, where they made a large fire and kept it up all night. There were five dogs. Rob insisted on sleeping by Graham's head, and occasionally put his long nose across his face. Graham had a plank covered with tussock grass for a pillow and did not get much sleep. In the middle of the night Rob rose up and went for another dog, and a great fight ensued. The men had to get up, and with difficulty the dogs were parted. Graham went for an early swim while the men cooked the breakfast, which consisted of poached eaglet eggs and tea boiled in a frying-pan. In drying a new pair of socks at the camp fire he almost destroyed one by burning big holes in it. Rob enjoyed himself amazingly, and learnt to hunt eaglets which nest in holes, but he had to be restrained, as he would have killed the birds.
Tuesday, June 26.—We have been having a spell of rain. Sunday was too wet to take the harmonium up to church, consequently we had to start the chants and hymns without an instrument. We got on all right until the last hymn, at which we had three tries, then in desperation I made a stupendous effort, and we pulled through. We had to have dinner at half-past twelve to be ready for service at two o'clock. I was deep in slumber when at five minutes to the hour Graham ran in to call me. It was a scramble, and I got to church feeling half awake. The children answer so well, better than children do at home; but then, of course, Graham knows exactly their capabilities and catechizes on what he has been teaching in the week. The people like learning new tunes, and sing them better than the old ones, which they are apt to drawl. To keep up to the mark involves a fair amount of practising at home, especially when you have no harmonium; you must have the tunes and chants at your finger ends. For once we had the afternoon and evening to ourselves, and sat over the fire in the dusk talking over happy memories.
Monday was wet again. Just as we were sitting down to one o'clock dinner Mrs. Hagan came in with her baby, saying she thought it was two o'clock. She stayed on till after three, having been joined by her daughter. Finally we left them to themselves, as I had yeast to make and Graham's hair to cut. When I came back she had departed.
It rained in torrents last night and all to-day. School was impossible. With a free day before us we felt like children, and were settling down when William appeared with his reading-book. "Would Mr. Barrow 'larn' him"; so Graham buckled to for over an hour. It is nice to see a young fellow so anxious to learn. Later on he came in with his hand bound up. He had cut it with a hatchet, happily not badly, and wanted me to dress it, his mother having already put a cobweb on.
When Bob Green (William's step-father) came in with the milk he told us he had seen a dead cow in the gulch. I fear it has died from wet and exposure. I cannot bear to think of the poor beasts suffering so. One winter more than a hundred were lost simply because there was not enough food for them. They climb up the mountains in search of grass, and often from weakness fall and are killed.
Tuesday, June 26 (continued).—At the request of the Custom House authorities at Cape Town we brought on from there some stores which had been sent by a French firm to the Tristanites in return for kindness shown by them to one of the firm's ships which had been on fire off Tristan. In the reply of the people to the kind inquiry what stores would be most useful to them the item "soap" was read as "soup," with the result that four cases of tins of soup were received and no soap, much to their disappointment, for soap is more prized than anything. We have lately made the acquaintance of some of these soups, which the people do not care for, as they have plenty of meat. Mrs. Bob Green sent us two tins of ox-tail, for which we gave her a brush and comb, although she said she didn't want anything. A few days later William appeared with a further supply, so to-day we gave him two tins of jams to take to his mother. He persistently said, "She don't want anything," but as we insisted, he finally went off with them.
To-day the room has been rather like an Irish cabin, rain dropping through the ceiling, puffs of smoke coming down the chimney, and wind blowing through every crevice. At the fire on this hearth all the day's cooking has had to be done. All the same we have been very cheerful and have enjoyed a quiet day with few interruptions. I have been able to get through some work, and have been busy making a cover for the Communion cloth out of the material E—— gave us; with bands of white sateen and a white cross in the centre it looks quite nice. Two little canaries I brought from the Cape have had to be put by the fireside to be kept warm.