White Hood and Blue Cap: A Christmas Bough with Two Branches
Chapter I. Christmas Eve in Tory Channel
Chapter I. Christmas Eve in Tory Channel.
“If,” said Marion Medway, following with earnest eyes the heavy flight of a great white sea-bird, “if it passes the ship thrice on this side where I am standing, I will take it as a sign that I am to be happy in this lovely land; if not—”
“Pardon me—your veil is in danger of being blown away. Shall I fasten it for you?”
So intent had Marion been upon her self-devised ornithomancy that the interruption both startled and annoyed her.
“Thanks, I need not trouble you,” said she curtly, as she crumpled the rescued strip of black gauze and thrust it into her pocket, without so much as a glance at the officious individual who had suggested its jeopardy. But Gower Hamilton was not to be put off so easily. He had haunted the slender, graceful, crapeclad figure all through the few hours' voyage from Wellington, longing and waiting for opportunity of speech, which, having now come, he determined to make the most of, even at the risk of snubbing and abasement.page 56
“That is a very fine gull,” said he, edging a little-nearer the lady, and pretending much interest in the bird.
“Very,” was the laconic response.
“If I had a crooked pin, a bit of twine, and a morsel of beef,” said Gower Hamilton, taking a sudden and unreasonable spite against the whole race of seafowl, “I'd hook that fellow, and end his fun. Then, perhaps, my lady would condescend to turn her eyes this way, even if she considered the game inferior.” Needless to say that these observations were not uttered aloud.
The gull flew forward till it was just opposite to Marion, then poising itself uncertainly a second, wheeled sharply, and winged its way lazily sternward.
“One disappointment,” murmured Marion, thus interpreting her feathered augur, “one disappointment at least.”
Now Gower Hamilton decided to try his luck again.
“Do you like Picton?” enquired he, adding mentally, “She can't say only ‘Very,’ to that; she will have to tack on another word or two anyhow, or else-sacrifice her grammar.”
“I don't know Picton,” said Marion, still not looking. The sea-bird was almost abreast of her again, and she caught her breath with anxiety as she watched its movements. Flap, flap, went its heavy wings, and it dipped its fair broad breast in the sea and flew back.
“Another disappointment,” said Marion, sighing.
“Northern New Zealand is rather prether pretty; don't you think so?” hazarded Gower presently, wondering in his heart what there was so confoundedly interesting about that gull!
“Pretty!” exclaimed Marion, with sudden enthusiasm. “Pretty! It is lovely. I think New Zealand—all that I have seen of it—beautiful beyond description.”
This was the right chord evidently, and Gower page 57 followed up his advantage with much self-gratulation, and said—“I like to hear you say that. I have seen a few other places, some of them very pretty; but New Zealand, I think, beats them all—some parts of it, that is. Dunedin is my favourite place.”
“Dunedin! exclaimed Marion, eagerly. “Do you know Dunedin? I am going there to live.”
“No! Are you? When?”
“After I have visited Picton.”
“We must be friends, then, after this. I, too, am going to Dunedin after Picton. Dunedin is my home. My old folks were among the early settlers, and I was born there, or would have been if I had waited a few months longer. As it was, I was in too great a hurry, and so got into existence somewhere at sea. Owing to that, I shall never be able to sympathise thoroughly with the fellow who bragged so about his foot being on his native heath (by-the-bye I wonder if he was a one-legged man!) but the nearest approach to the feeling expressed by him is always awakened in me by a sight of Dunedin.”
“Is it a beautiful place?”
“Do you know I would rather you would wait and judge for yourself. I am bad at description, and given to exaggeration besides. Have you friends at Picton?”
“Yes; not exactly friends though. They are old friends of my mother's. I don't think I have ever even seen them.”
“And your mother? Is she travelling with you?”
Now this question was out of taste and superfluous, for he had seen the girl's lonely embarkation at Wellington that day. When now she turned upon him, her wide grey serious eyes wet with a sudden rush of tears, he wished his tongue had been cut out ere it had framed the unfortunate and impertinent enquiry.
“My mother!” said Marion, “My mother is dead.”page 58
“Oh! I am so sorry,” said Gower, in distress. “I would not for the world have said a word if I had known—if I had thought—”
“Pray, don't mind. It was so strange to hear any one mention her. I have had no one to speak to since it happened; and I have been so—so lonely sometimes. I—I haven't got used to being without her yet. It is such a little while since she had to go, and we had been so much to each other for so many years.”
Gower Hamilton did not know what to say or do. Crying women in the abstract he hated—as we all do—but this individual case of a crying woman wrought upon him strangely. He wanted to comfort her, to soothe her with tender words and caresses; and all that was, of course, out of the question on a crowded deck. Moreover, there was one particular female sitting a few paces distant—a woman, bony, sourvisaged, and unpleasant to the eye—an old maid of virulent type, surely—(no woman having known the pleasures and pains of matrimony and maternity could ever look so sour and hard!)—who had kept her basilisk glance fixed on this young couple with vigilant malignant curiosity ever since they first entered into conversation. Between wishing that he could throw this person overboard, and longing to comfort the tearful girl beside him, poor Gower was sorely overset and at a loss.
“I am so sorry,” stammered he again.
“I didn't mean to cry,” said Marion presently, “but I could not help it. It is over now;” and she tried to smile, but made a miserable failure of it.
“So you are going to Dunedin to live?” said Hamilton, eager to divert her mind from unpleasant thoughts. “Have you friends there?
“One, an aunt. My only friend in the world now.”
“Whereabouts in Dunedin does she live? Perhaps I know her. May I ask her name?”
“It is M'Kenzie—Miss Marion M'Kenzie. I am named after her.”page 59
“M'Kenzie! Does she live near the Town Belt?”
“Why, then, of course, I know her. My people live within cooee—quite near to her.”
“Do they? I have not seen her since I was quite a little child,” said Marion, eyeing him wistfully. “Would you mind telling me what she is like now?”
“I wish I could! But the fact is, I don't remember her. I have been located at Wellington for the last year or two; and even when I lived at home I didn't see much of the neighbours. My sisters know her very well though.”
Marion looked disappointed that he could not tell her more.
“So your name is the same as your aunt's,” remarked Gower after a pause, “Miss Marion M'Kenze?”
“O no! It is only the baptismal name I have. Aunt Marion was my mother's eldest sister.”
Gower fell to wondering what her other name might be; yet felt, as he watched the fair delicate face—so touchingly attractive in its present melancholy — that he would be content with sweet-sounding “Marion” all his life, might he but have sole and complete right to call her by it.
“We are getting pretty near the end of our voyage now. And, by Jove! there's the dinner bell. Do you feel hungry?”
“Not at all,” said Marion.
“Neither do I,” responded Gower, untruthfully. Blessed with the voracity of appetite and perfection of digestive apparatus natural to six feet or so of sound and healthy humanity, he was pretty generally hungry at meal times. And the sea breeze had done its best for him to-day. However, he contrived to look as if dinner were the least interesting subject in the world to him at any time, and particularly just now; and he leaned over the bulwarks close to Marion, and pointed out the scenery to her. The sea gull was gone, and Marion's interest in it was almost gone too. Yet she page 60 sighed a little with superstitious apprehension as she saw him fly off without having passed the vessel on her side more than once.
The little “Hiriwa” glided swiftly over the smooth blue water, and fast approached the entrance to the channel—a fairly wide cleft between the rugged fern-fringed cliffs that front Cook's Strait on the western side. A pretty enough entrance; but at least one-half of it bristling with jagged rocks both below and above water, so that the deep-water channel through it is comparatively small.
The sea was as calm as a mill-pond, and the passengers (the Hiriwa was carrying her full complement this trip) were enjoying themselves immensely. Even the tide-rip off Terawiti had not spoilt their appetites, so the sound of the dinner-bell tempted most of them down stairs. Only a few of them remained above, finding greater attraction in the loveliness of the sea and land, all radiant with the glory of the setting sun. The Hiriwa was not often so crowded as upon this occasion, nor carried she often so interesting a variety of passengers; circumstances which may be accounted for by the season, which was Christmas Eve.
There were distinguished persons on board: a Bishop notably—a fine, tall, soldier-like man, whose handsome presence and good deeds are equally well remembered throughout New Zealand, though he has been sleeping the long sleep for some time now. He was bound to Picton for the performance of a special Christmas service, and was accompanied by his wife, the noble, true-hearted woman who shared his labours for so many years.
Then there was a certain stalwart Judge, well known throughout the colonies for other characteristics, besides his perfect knowledge of law, and able administration of the same. Him, the lady-passengers eyed with the curiosity which the sex is apt to experience about any one who achieves a reputation for gallantry. To the said ladies' masculine friends, he was an object of distrustful interest; and each felt a sensation of relief page 61 when the Judge devoted himself with his usual politeness to a fair dame, who was travelling alone, and to whom he was evidently no stranger.
Besides the Bishop and the Judge, a saint and sinner, whose simultaneous presence on board the steamer, and good-humoured occasional converse with each other, strongly evidenced the aphorism that “extremes meet,” there were present sundry representatives of the noble volunteer force, taking a holiday trip with their wives and sweethearts; or alone, in cases where those pleasant appendages were lacking.
And there was a canny old Scotchman with his “guid wife,” bound on a long-promised visit to “an auld Scotchman” at Picton.
Also a handsome Devonshire lass, a “new chum,” whose flashing eyes, brilliant complexion and glistening white teeth, had already wrought serious damage among the hearts of unengaged volunteers.
And highly conspicuous among the rest, was a Yankee, ex-captain—a man commanding a ready flow of language—a man much given to alcohol, boasting, and betting. At present he was out of a billet, “down on his luck,” as he expressed it; and was wiling away his time by taking a free run in the Hiriwa, over a familiar bit of sea; and by harassing the Hiriwa's commander with a verbal display of his own superiority over that individual in the matter of coast knowledge.
“Say, Cap!” he sang out suddenly, “whar in ‘nation are ye steerin’ to?” The vessel was at this time about three hundred yards from the entrance of Tory Channel. “Keep more to starboard, caint ye? The tide's runnin in like a millrace, and if it takes her full on the beam, you'll have her on the rocks as sure as God made little apples.”
“You be hanged simply!” growled the fat little Captain, from the bridge, “I haven't been in an' out this place every hour o' the day an' night for years, to be taught anything by a Yank. I know my way about.”
“Know yer way about! I guess ye dew. Yew'll page 62 know your way to the bottom in about five minutes as yew're a steerin neow; an' small matter tew if yew only went down alone. By the Lord she feels it!” continued he, as the vessel neared the rocks. “There yew air! Now yon pie-a-wan-wan-picked-up-along-shore-hawbuck, get her eout o' that ef ye kin. You've a head, and so's a scupper-nail and a pumpkin, and I'd like tew know which is the whichest. Sailed on a Friday,” said he, confidentially addressing the mizenmast, “with a butter-keg for a skipper, and a Bishop aboard at that! Any one of the three was enough to bring us to grief, but the lot together makes it a credit. There she goes! Lord, have mercy on the women!”
The Captain now saw the danger; and the signals, “Stop her! back her!” rang out in quick succession, but too late. Hardly had the engines been reversed when the boat rose on a long roller, sweeping towards the channel entrance, and cracked down on a sunken reef amidships, with a shock that shuddered through her from stem to stern. Another roller lifted her, and then came a second shock, snapping the screw clean off and smashing the rudder. Then the steamer slid over the reef into deep water, and drifted helplessly with the tide down the Channel, broadside on, with the water pouring into her from a big leak amidships, where she had first struck. The pumps were set to work, but the water rose too fast, and in a quarter of an hour the engines stopped altogether.
The Hiriwa, however, was built in three compartments, and the fore and aft divisions appeared free from leaks; but it was presently found that the door in the partition dividing the aft and midships had somehow got jammed open in such a way, that shutting it altogether was an impossibility, so that the water steadily though slowly found its way to the stern of the boat, which, at all times sank too deep. Still there was no danger of her going down for two or three hours at least. This the passengers did not know, however, and the panic was tremendous.
The diners rushed impetuously on deck, the last page 63 to appear being the Bishop, who seemed sorely inclined to read the commination service over the Captain. Like the Psalmist under trouble, (the exact nature of which does not just at present occur to me) this holy man “kept silence even from good words, but it was pain and grief to him” evidently. A splendid sailor himself, he could fully comprehend the skipper's awful blunder.
Everybody believed at first that the steamer was rapidly sinking; that some at least would have to fight the waves for dear life; and the effect of this notion was curiously varied.
The ladies mostly followed the general tendency of the sex, under such circumstances,—the tendency to scream, catch hold of “other parties,” and repent publicly and volubly of their sins.
The Yankee seemed rather to enjoy the situation; probably because from the first he had the full measure of the disaster, and knew that anyway he was safe, being able to swim like a fish, and the shore was scarce two hundred yards distant. He took a malicious pleasure in playing upon the feelings of the passengers.
“Get to prayers, beloved friends and brethren,” yelled he, in his unmelodious twang. “The angel is waitin' for yew, an' the skipper of this craft is the one appointed by special providence to stcer yew straight tew the shore. “My Lord,” addressing the Bishop, “Will you give out the hymu, or shall I? Beloved victims of misplaced confidence, prepare to sing your last and loveliest, like dying swans. Page eleven thousand and ninety-nine—ahem!—
“Ye little hills, why hop ye so?
Ye hills, why dew ye hop?
Is it bekase ye're glad tew see
His grace the Lord Bishop?
“Ye little fishes in the sen,
O sing and never stop!
Taint every day ye git the chance
To cat a Lord Bishop.”
But the humour of all this was little appreciated. The women screamed louder than ever. Some passionately page 64 besought the Bishop to help them save their souls; others swarmed round the Judge, with an instinctive trust in his size and well-known susceptibility to the cry of distressed femininity, and entreated him for corporeal safety. The Judge was already engaged, however, with one long arm supporting the fair dame aforesaid, who had developed symptoms of fainting and hysteria. With the other arm he warded off the be-sciging group, explaining that he thought “one at a time a great moral principle,” but that there was a prospect of all getting safely to shore if they would but have patience.
The old Scotchman commenced to strip for a swim, but was much hindered by his wife, who clung about him with heart-rending cries. “We maun e'en droon thegither, John,” wailed she. “Its a sair, an' unco indecent endin' for twa respectable people like you an' me; and I've aye been a guid an' faithful wife till ye, John. But it's a comfort, ye ken, that we'll e'en droon thegither.”
“The de'il a bit!” exclaimed John, whose views did not coincide with hers at all. “We'll swim the gither, gin ye're willin' an' able; but gin ye're on for droonin', auld woman, ye maun e'en gang yer ain gait. I'll no droon—no me!”
A buxom lady, with a boy companion, rushed about wildly. “Somebody throw me overboard!” she shrieked with frantic gestures. “Somebody throw me overboard, please. All this has happened through me. It's a judgment—a judgment! I'm the Jonah! Will nobody throw me over?”
“O Judge!” cried that gentleman's companion, coming to with surprising suddenness, “do go and find out what she's done. If it's anything very wicked, and she has brought death upon us, it's quite proper she should be thrown overboard.”
“Bosh!” said the Judge. “It's like her consummate conceit to fancy Providence would sink a steamer on her account. The idea! But I must make her stop that noise anyhow.”page 65
Seizing the lamenting lady, he began a severe remonstrance; but the sense of sin was still strong upon her. “Throw me into the sea, please,” she cried, gripping him as tenaciously as if she expected her request to be carried out, “I'm the Jonah—the wicked Jonah; throw me into the sea.”
“I would with pleasure,” replied the Judge, “only I don't see a whale handy to carry out the rest of the programme. Still, if you'd like to be chucked over on general principles, you know—why—”
“Oh! I'm a miserable sinner!” she broke in. “Don't you come near me, Phil!”—this to her youthful escort “Don't you come near me again. Once safe on land never, never will I see you again. Phil, you've a deal to answer for. I was a respectable woman till—”
“Come, that will do,” interrupted the Judge; “Nobody wants to know about you and Phil. Only you'd better stop that squealing and stick to him a little longer, at least until you get on dry land once more.”
At this moment, the chief officer, emerging from the engine-room, sang out that the vessel would float for three hours yet—an announcement that eased the public mind considerably. The sour-faced female who had displayed such interest in Marion Medway, and Gower Hamilton especially, recovered herself. She made a sudden pounce upon the Devonshire damsel who, seated flat on the deck, was rocking herself to and fro, and moaning piteously.
“Child of sin!” exclaimed the spinster, in a tone of vicious religion, “get on your knees this instant and pray for salvation.”
“Iss, ma-am,” sobbed the girl, with an effort to do as she was told. “Iss, ma-am. O, 'tayn't six months since I wer yawking in the dimpse with Ike Beer up to Kirton, and now we're gwine to be drowned in the watter like rattens. Iss sure—like rattens.”
“Turn your thoughts heavenward,” said her comforter; “ look not back upon the filth and mire of page 66 earthly pleasures that you have waded through. Confess and repent of your manifold sins, and cease to lust after the flesh.”
“I never did hanker much after it,” cried the poor damsel, vaguely interpreting flesh as butchers' meat. “I could live for ever on home-made bread and cream.—”
“Little fool!”—with a savage shake—“do you think I care about your carnal appetite? I meant your degrading anxiety about worldly pleasures, your scandalous craving for the admiration and company of deceitful men. Have I not observed all day your disgraceful carryings-on with those young ruffians in uniforms? Out upon you! What can come of it all save weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?”
But here the chief mate came to the rescue. Two of the steamer's boats had by this time been lowered, and the ladies were being assisted in.
“You'll answer for this one day, Mr Mate,” said the spinster, when, with unceremonious disregard of her, the Devonshire girl was helped over the side. “I had just got that poor wanderer nicely under conviction. In two minutes more her soul would have been saved, and then drowning would not have mattered.”
“Are you insured, ma-am?” enquired the mate, contemplating her gravely.
“No, sir; I am not. I put my trust in Providence, and don't believe in paying premiums to ungodly Insurance Companies; that is,”—suddenly correcting herself—“that is—unless it's fire!”
“It's all right then,” said the mate, putting on an air of relief, “I was afraid some Insurance Company might be making a loss over you; but as you're not insured, and are safe on the track for heaven——”
“Heaven!” shrieked the woman, clasping his arm agonisedly, “You don't mean that the ship is going down?”
The mate nodded.page 67
“Here! hi!” yelled the spinster, quitting her hold and flying to the side of the vessel. “Hi! stop the boats! Wait for a lady, you brutes! Would you see me drown before your very eyes?” And she fought her way over into the nearest boat with a strength, and activity, and general springiness beyond her years.
The ladies were now all safely embarked. The Bishop had handed down his wife, giving her his blessing and a large rug, both very good things in their way; the Judge had deposited his fair charge in the same small craft as gently and comfortably as was, under the circumstances, possible.
“Can't you come too, and take care of us all?” said she, plaintively.
“Nothing I should like better,” was the reply; “but the Bishop and I must be the last passengers on board, according to etiquette. Besides, there's my dinner.”
“Yes; I was hurried, you know; and, moreover, I was allowing a margin for oysters at Picton. Now there is a dark uncertainty about one's chance of those blessed bivalves, so I must fill up—I must, indeed. Good-bye. But stay!”
He rushed away, returning in a few seconds from the cabin. “Here, take these,” said he, passing down a pair of blankets, snatched from the nearest berth, and a tin of biscuits. “You will probably feel the good of them before morning if you have to roost on yonder hill-side.”
The boats shoved off amidst a shower of adieux, Gower Hamilton waving his hat to Marion as she sat in the stern of the first that started. He had had the greatest difficulty to persuade her away.
“I would as soon drown in the ship as in a boat,” she had said. “I am not frightened here, but those screaming women would drive me distracted.”
“But they won't scream in the boat,” he had replied, “and there is no danger of drowning, anyway. page 68 We shall all get ashore; but the women must go first, of course. Come, let me help you down.”
She was leaning against him, and his arm was round her. In the first shock of the wreck she had turned to him, clingingly, and he had not loosened his hold of her since. “No; I don't want to go. Let me stay, please. If I leave you I shall be afraid.”
“Marion!” he had said, tightening his clasp and bending over her, until his yellow beard touched her cheek and dark hair. And she, seeming not to notice the familiarity, had turned her face upward to him trustfully. “Marion, you must go. Do you think I will not follow you as soon as I can? But I must stand by the ship a little longer with the rest of the men, and it would be absurd for you to remain with me. Come, be reasonable, and don't make it so hard for me to lose sight of you.”
“I should only hamper you if I stayed, of course?”
“Of course. How could I do anything while your safety was doubtful?”
“Then your safety will be doubtful if you remain?”
“No, no; I didn't mean that. Come, no more words and waste of time; you must go.”
Very reluctantly she yielded, and suffered herself to be put into the boat.
“By-the-bye, have you any luggage aboard?”
“Yes; two small trunks.”
“What name on them?”
“All right. Good-bye. I shall see you again directly.”
This query respecting luggage was suggested by the sight of the Judge busily engaged hauling up his carpet-bags, &c., from the hold, where a sailor, for “a consideration,” was hooking them on to a rope.
“I say, old fellow,” cried Hamilton to the sailor—“I say, while you're about it, fish up two trunks labelled Miss Marion Medway, and a big portmanteau with G. H. on the ticket, will you? and here's a crown page 69 for you,” spinning the coin down into the man's ready hand.
Now were to be seen two large whaling boats pulling off from the whaling station on the north shore; and the Bishop suggested to the skipper that they and the ship's boats, on the return of the latter, should be set to tow the steamer ashore and beach her. But the little man was too used up to give orders about anything, and some of the remaining passengers clamoured that they should be put ashore first, so that the only plan by which the little Hiriwa could have been saved had to be given up.
“Yah!” snarled the Yankee, scattering scorn round liberally, “so the poor, pretty, sensible little thing's to be left to her misery and destruction because a thumpin' darned lumberhead of a skipper smashes her on a rock, and a few ugly skunks think so much of their precious carcasses that they won't give her one chance of bein' saved. Why, the hull bilin' of yer ain't worth a single plank of her pretty deck! It's an almighty pity there ain't a few more captains like this partikler cuss. If there was, heaven and the other place would soon be so chock-full that there'd be no more fightin' as to which ought to git the biggest lot o'souls. Lord! haow I dew wish I could act the way the spirit moves me this minute! What a high old feedin' time the fishes 'ud have for a day or two!”
The boats soon returned for a fresh load. As the vessel drifted down the channel with the rising tide, the passengers were landed in batches all along the nearest shore (which happened to be the southern), the last lot being set down some three miles from the first; and the last lot had quite the best of it, for there was a farm only about a mile inland from them, whither they soon found their way, and were most hospitably welcomed. One of the whalcboats bore off the Bishop, the captain, and others, to the shore. In the other, bound for Picton, went the Judge and Hamilton, with their rescued luggage, and the Yankee. The men pulled off heartily to the chant of a good old page 70 whaling chorus, and the little steamer drifted calmly to her death.
Picton was reached before nine o'clock. This little town, as most New Zealanders are aware, lies at the very end of Queen Charlotte's Sound, and, at the time of our story, consisted chiefly of a pier and a public-house. There were divers other habitations certainly, but nothing that could be conscientiously called a street. The pier and public-house formed the distinctive features of the town.
Picton lies on a flat, and is surrounded by low, but steep hills, through a gorge in which now runs the railway to Blenheim. There is an uninhabited inlet of the Sound near Picton which resembles that place—in the dark—so closely that once on a time a steamer, the Phœbe, ran bump ashore there, firmly believing she was going to Picton. She was not injured—only delayed for a tide—and the mate in charge of the deck excused himself for the mishap by saying that he had firmly believed they were making Picton, because he had smelt the bloaters (Picton's only export), and that that was “the only way to tell the darned place without a moon.”
Fortunately for him, a large shoal of herrings had been driven ashore at the spot in question by some porpoises ten days before, and were lying there in high condition, so the mate's plea was held valid. From all this it may be readily inferred that the town did not present a striking appearance to the eye of the unprejudiced traveller. The days of the rise of Picton were those of the first diggings at Marlborough. When those diggings collapsed, Picton shrank like a drying bloater. One good thing remained, however—oysters. But man cannot live by oysters alone. Excellent assistants—admirable by way of a change; when taken as a constancy they become monotonous. Yet any traveller doomed to spend some hours at Picton may feel that “the wind is tempered to the shorn lamb” as he enjoys a feed of those most delicious of shell-fish fresh from the sea. It is an appropriate page 71 fish for Picton, too—not given to unbecoming liveliness any more than is the town. In the time of which we write, if three men and a duck were seen in the principal thoroughfare at one and the same time, the place was considered excited. When the owner of a house wanted to leave, he carefully boarded up his windows, gave up his fire-insurance to the Bank as security for his over-draft, and prayed for a conflagration. As to letting a house, such an idea never entered the mind of the wildest enthusiast. Yet Picton had a Resident Magistrate, a Customs officer, a Postmaster, a Telegraphist, a Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages, an Immigration officer, and a Sheriff. This apparent extravagance may be judged leniently when it is explained that all these gorgeous offices were concentrated in and upon one individual. He was not overworked either, his time being taken up chiefly with forwarding blank returns during the week, and reading prayers in the English Church on Sundays. But all this en passant.
When our shipwrecked trio reached this peaceful city, a rush was made for the telegraph office, where a youth, temporarily in charge, was just retiring for the night.
“Go to Jericho!” shouted he, in response to the energetic rapping at the door, “Cutting up your blooming shines! Go to Jericho!”
A word about the wreck, however, brought him out speedily, in very scant attire.
“Now,” said the Judge, “lose no time, but see if they are awake at White's Bay and Wellington.”
Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.
“White's Bay's all right, sir.”
More clicking and a longer reply.
“Wellington says he's just going to bed, sir, and he'll be blowed if he'll stop up for anybody!”
“Tell him he'll get the sack. No—stay—just wire ‘Hiriwa wrecked,’ then he'll wait for particulars.”
This done, the answer came promptly, “Fire page 72 away;” and the following telegram was despatched at once.
“To agent of Hiriwa Steamer, Wellington.
“Hiriwa wrecked in Tory Channel. Passengers roosting along southern shore. Send steamer to pick them up at daybreak.”
“Wire a copy of that to Featherstone, the Superintendent,” said the Judge, he'll make that agent lively, I'll answer for it.”
“Yes sir; shall I try Nelson, too, sir?”
“Nelson! Well, you can if you like, but it's my belief nothing short of nitro-glycerine would rouse up Sleepy Hollow, at this time of night.”
With that, the Judge went off to his “blessed bivalves;” the Yankee, too, spread exaggerated wrecknews among such people as he could find awake; and Gower Hamilton, after storing his luggage, obtained with much difficulty and pecuniary outlay, a boat and men to row him back to the Channel, the whalers being too fatigued after their long pull.