Tikera; or, Children of the Queen of Oceania
Chapter I I arrive in Auckland
Chapter I I arrive in Auckland
Our ship entered Auckland harbour, the site of the capital of New Zealand, at the height of a tropical summer during the bitter war between the European settlers in New Zealand and the native Maoris, the bloodiest events of which occurred towards the end of 1864 and in the first months of 1865.
I was greatly relieved to think that my journey was nearly ended and that our old and more or less rotten Woodpecker was now passing the scattered islands which lie at the approach to Auckland. The harbour with its tangled mesh of masts and ropes became clearer every moment. The Woodpecker had carried me and her cargo of coal by the slowest and most miserable of routes from Newcastle in Australia to the shores of Peru, and from there, with a cargo of guano, to New Zealand. All this time, I and the other wretched members of the crew were at the mercy of that natural enemy of every seaman, a miserly purser. We lived on putrid meat, ships' biscuits so hard that it was impossible to pierce them without using hammer and nails, and stale water.
For our quarters below-decks, we occupied a little three-cornered den. Fourteen of us were crammed into it, sharing our space with the captain's dog and the first mate's parrot. Although the ceiling and walls leaked our high-ranking menagerie had to be kept dry.
The parrot proved quite an asset, for after a few months we had succeeded in teaching him some choice expressions, both in English and Maori. We reckoned that this raised his commercial value to several pounds more than the measly sixpence originally paid for him. I know of no better way to increase one's small capital than to buy parrots and educate them in this way. Seamen's wagea do not multiply as quickly, however they mount up during a voyage. According to the contract made with our captain before we left Newcastle, each of us earned six pounds a month in pay. The total, after deductions had been made for the tobacco smoked or chewed during the voyage, was to be paid in Auckland.
Reckoning the slow accumulation of our wages was the favourite pastime of all occupants of the den during the few moments when page 2 we were not manning the pumps. Pumping continued almost ceaselessly in order to save the ship. She was literally bursting at the seams. Even our official time off-work was curtailed by this activity, a common feature of shipboard life. Although every seaman is supposed to be on watch for four hours and off duty the next four (during which time he must sleep, eat and wash his clothes), the regulations also provide for emergency action, which may mean doing without any sleep at all for two or three days at a time. As it happened, the wretched state of the Woodpecker meant that we worked under these latter conditions, because, said the captain, no one could predict the moment at which a ship which had successfully survived so many tempests would begin to fall apart.
Nevertheless, we found enough leisure to calculate that on the day we landed in Auckland each of us would receive rather more than thirty pounds, over and above deductions for tobacco and the peculiar and sparingly rationed liquor which the purser called ‘second-class rum’. (‘First-class rum’ was reserved for the officers, well out of reach of the common herd.) Constant calculations, in which I was strictly supervised by my companions, all eager to detect any error I might make, finally convinced me that my wages would allow me to spend a considerable number of weeks wandering among the Maoris, a people I had already met and learned to like (you may guess which sex in particular) on various Pacific islands. The seaman who slept in the bunk beneath mine had worked out exactly how many drinks of first-class rum his money would buy him once we reached Auckland. The man who slept above me declared that his savings should enable him to establish himself as a gold prospector and so to become a wealthy man.
Apart from earning all this money during the voyage, I acquired considerable skill as assistant to ‘Chips’, the ship's carpenter. He was not very popular, for, unlike the ordinary seamen, he was permitted to sleep at night. I also learnt to shovel coal or guano; I became expert at tying all kinds of complicated knots; and I was not too bad at mixing grog, a concoction of the second-class rum, stale water, lemon juice, and something which the purser called sugar. I never understood why this sticky, viscous fluid, which was distributed with a ladle, always left such a thick deposit of sand at the bottom of my mug.
My time at sea further provided me with arthritis, severely chapped hands caused by hauling ropes and constant exposure to salt water, several flannel shirts which I made myself and decorated with embroidered anchors, and a canvas bag three feet long and six inches page 3 in diameter. This last is traditionally used by seamen to store their underclothes, and serves also as a pillow. Stuff for mine was provided by an old sail, taken without the purser's permission: but my crime was eventually discovered by the first mate, and had some unpleasant consequences.
All this will give you some idea of the poetry and romance of the seaman's life. But let me add that when the pumps were at rest, the captain would see to it that we were kept busy. There was always a job to be done. The hull must be scraped and repainted, and when that was finished, we had to begin scraping it all over again—just to keep us from being bored. In fact, our only relaxation was a bit of sewing and singing in the evenings. I find even my present work, sluicing for gold, with water lapping about my knees, preferable to the over-rated life at sea.
Our chief delight was in revenging ourselves for all our miseries on the captain's dog. We felt that every time one of us sent him out into the wind and rain, it was the captain who suffered. That seemed a proper justice to us.
Fortunately, every voyage, even with a cargo of coal or guano, must come to an end in a harbour where everything is fresh, even meat and water, where beds are dry and all the rum is first-class, and where, at long last, there are beautiful young women to welcome the traveller. Our hardships would soon be over in the haven towards which the Woodpecker was now racing with an unwonted speed which threatened to split her old sails asunder. The chant of ‘Heaveho … heave-ho …’, used for many centuries by English sailors to mark the rhythm of heaving and hauling, sounded merrily; and even the clatter of the falling anchor rang out like land music.
My comrades were putting on their city frock coats, the equivalent of a tradesman's ‘Sunday best’; or polishing the brass chains of their turnip watches, or gazing loftily, with hands in pockets, at the dockers who came on board to unload the ship. As an even stronger expression of their enjoyment and self-satisfaction, they would whistle ‘Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves. Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’—and this despite the recent termination of their six months of slavery.
With the splash of the falling anchor, I became a free man. Since I did not yet possess that indispensable adornment of every seaman and European settler, a gilded watch-chain. I sat idly by the ship's side, envying my companions their polished treasures, and solemnly vowing that the moment I set foot on dry ground, I should immediately purchase so desirable a trinket for myself. Meanwhile, as I page 4 waited for the captain's permission to go ashore, I observed the town.
Before me spread a crescent of water, cutting deeply into the land, and edged with a curved line of ships, lying dark and still at their moorings. At a slightly higher level was another curved line of two-storeyed houses, built of red brick or grey slate, and clustered in irregular rows. Behind them rolled away the hills. These were obviously of volcanic origin, and were covered with basalt and heaps of scoria, which gave them a barren and forlorn appearance. Here and there were small trees and bushes, but their faded foliage did not do much to brighten the empty hills and the drab houses.
Behind me swept the superb semi-circle of the bay. A few scattered islands towered out of it, their sub-tropical vegetation giving them the appearance of vivid green pyramids. In the distance shimmered the foam-crested waves of the mighty ocean: and, on the far horizon, three or four bright points glimmered like the evening star. These came gradually closer and closer, and were finally revealed as the pearly sails of other ships nearing the harbour.
Not far from me, and some way from the shore, lay several imposing men of war. Order and silence reigned there, despite the fact that each vessel housed a good five hundred men. They showed no sign of life, other than the sailors' washing which fluttered in the wind from every visible yard and line, and the few sentries slowly pacing the decks.
Numbers of wherries heavily laden with goods, chiefly coal, moved over the gently rippled surface of the harbour. The boatmen who sat at their long oars propelled these clumsy craft by the rhythmic swaying of their bodies. Occasionally, white service boats, the gondolas of this city, sped past, each manned by two watermen plying their slender sculls. Still more rapid were the narrow Maori canoes, their ridge-topped poops as tall as the natives who stood to their paddles. Schooners, cutters, and yachts crossed the harbour, incomparably graceful, heeling with the wind so that their bright pennants almost dipped into the water.
On the jetty was a bustling crowd of stevedores, some rolling barrels and others struggling with large bales. Groups of seamen in dark-blue jackets and scarlet-coated soldiers gaped at our ship. A few merchants and clerks were busy writing down the number and weight of each case they received. Occasionally, a portly barrel-chested policeman walked through the crowd, which parted suddenly to reveal several gaily-dressed women of easy virtue, all ready for page 5 the new arrivals. A double stream of two-wheeled carts came and went, to and from between the harbour and the warehouses.
At last our skipper appeared on deck, resplendently dressed in his stylish (and spotless) gold-buttoned uniform, and with an old-fashioned but remarkably well-preserved tall silk hat on his head. Trying hard to look like a genuine naval man, he came down the companionway which linked the Olympian regions of the ship with the humble quarters of the ordinary seamen. He quite spoilt the effect, however, by the violent language he used in ordering away the boat which was to take him to town.
Immediately, the dirty, salt-eaten chains ground in their pulleys. The boat was lowered to the water with a resounding splash. The skipper stumbled to his seat, which was covered with the Union Jack as a symbol of his dignity, settled down comfortably at the tiller, and commanded the boat's crew to take him to the Sailors' Recruiting Office.
The Recruiting Office and the Sailors' Home, an institution which is always strongly supported by the local philanthropists, stand side-by-side in every English port I have seen. Naturally, no liquor is sold in the Home: but a man can gorge himself on the books and newspapers in the reading-room. Gambling is forbidden, but draughts are permitted. Athletics which take place in the adjoining backyard are strongly recommended by the authorities. The food is good, the beds are clean, and the rooms are well-lit. Moreover, any resident of the Home will find it more than easy to secure a place on the first home-bound ship. Despite these advantages, no sailor from the Woodpecker would stay there. For what would be the point of staying in a place where the front door was firmly shut at ten o'clock at night and where there was no provision for women, drink or gambling?
I did not intend to patronise the Home either, but for very different reasons. Life at sea and the company of seamen did not attract me. The clerk who paid me my wages recommended me to sign on again, but I told him firmly that I was determined not to go back to sea. My former shipmates—the happiest men alive under the Southern Cross so long as their money lasted—also disdained the hospitality of the Home. They wanted entertainment, and they meant to have it. Once their money was spent they might starve for several days, and would beg for a job on any ship going, however unseaworthy. Then a few pounds advance payment would enable them to redeem their possessions, all of which—right down to the last hand-embroidered shirt—would by that time be in the hands page 6 of the pawnbroker. Thus they would condemn themselves to another six months of slavery.
These gloomy presentiments were quite out of mind at the moment. Pleasure-bent, they vanished into the town where so many sharks lurked in wait for their hard-won pounds.
‘Sir’ (I was startled to be accosted by that title for the first time in many months) ‘Sir, you are looking for a place to stay? We serve first-class rum with dinner at our hotel.’
‘Fine clothes … watches … watch-chains … What can I offer you, sir?’ came from another huckster.
I bought a gilded watch-chain for a few shillings, thus improving my appearance and respectability; and twirling my newly acquired decoration—which could easily have restrained a fullgrown dog—I set out to find the street and lodging-house which had been recommended to me before I left Australia.
‘Where are you from, sir?’ inquired one smart young lady. She was one of whom there are so many in every port. Her light-brown complexion proclaimed her part-Maori origin.
Of the whole crew of the Woodpecker I was the only one to evade the many alluring traps prepared for my sex by the sirens of this town. Escaping the persistent cadging of numerous hotel agents and the sweetly spoken promises of equally numerous street-walkers, I went on looking for my chosen accommodation.
My conspicuous canvas bag over one shoulder, I walked along looking about me as I went, for I was curious to see the new world I had just entered. The streets along which I passed were all thickly strewn with scoria, coal-black, but free of dust; and the pavement blocks were also of volcanic origin.
Stalls heaped with tropical fruit lined both sides of the streets. It seemed as if every country, from Tasmania to India and beyond, had sent their fragrant produce to fill the baskets with bananas, oranges, grapes, coconuts, guavas, and even fruit from the colder climes.
Showy buildings, their windows packed with luxuries, lay cheek by jowl with tumbledown wooden hovels, sodden with alcohol which evaporated through their wide-open doors and windows. Obviously, the North American custom of removing such old buildings from the centre of the town to more remote suburbs and replacing them with permanent structures was not known in Auckland. Such buildings were left standing until they fell down or went up in flames.
The population offered as many striking contrasts as did the buildings. The shop-keeping aristocracy drove by in their fine page 7 carriages. Dashing officers in tight-fitting tunics and elegant fops with silky scarves hanging from their shiny top hats made a great show of their accomplished horsemanship. Ladies and gentlemen dressed in accordance with the fashions in last year's magazines (new fashions come late to Auckland) rubbed shoulders with blanketed Maoris and shabby seamen.
Some of these, more than half-drunk, staggered down the middle of the street. Many soldiers were to be seen sunning themselves on the front-door steps; their presence was evidence of the current campaign.
Groups of Maoris crowded at the street corners, haggling with the itinerant fishmongers and greengrocers. Each time a dirty blanket slipped from one of their shoulders I could see the powerfully modelled bare brown chests of man or woman. Everyone was used to the presence of the half-naked natives and there was no sign of embarrassment. The Maoris are respected by even the most ruffianly among the English and Irish because of their well-developed biceps, hard fists, and the ease with which they pick a quarrel. This is perhaps a unique example of the British being respectful towards a dark-skinned race.
Now and then I glimpsed Maoris in European clothes, generally a suit of large checks. These gentlemen had their shoes polished by the shoe-shine boys whose stalls stood at the street corners, and they sported large-brimmed very expensive hats made from the fibre of a palm tree with the local name of cabbage tree. I have since learnt that such a hat costs up to four or five pounds, and the long silk ribbon which is wrapped several times round its crown also costs a considerable sum of money. The well-to-do Maoris do not spare expense on their wardrobes.
Despite their dark complexions, the Maori women, who dress almost as smartly as their European sisters, are pleasing to look at, thanks to their luxuriant deep black hair, fiery eyes, and aquiline features.
Judging by the posters I saw, there was no lack of public entertainment in the town which, like all colonial centres, attracts a multitude of seamen, miners, and bushmen, all of whom find this very costly business entirely irresistible. One poster recommended the waxworks where models of all the contemporary European monarchs were on show, and, a very special attraction, the famous thieves and robbers who have been hanged in London town in the last few years. Another advertised the amusements to be found in a café-chantant where dancing and gambling were readily available. page 8 These posters were displayed alongside printed appeals to come to a certain church, where no collection would be taken, and to be redeemed from this sinful modern Babylon. Between two billboards, one calling for votes and the other advertising the virtues of English gin, was pasted a third, which asked for contributions towards the maintenance of a home for reformed prostitutes. The distinguished patrons of this edifying cause, headed by Sir George Grey, K.C.B., Governor of New Zealand, were listed in full. The posters, the buildings, the people, and the life itself presented a pattern of contrasting extremes. At the very same moment one heard the words of an obscene sea shanty coming from one direction and the aweinspiring words of a psalm from another. The influx of troops, war-refugees, and common adventurers made Auckland a more riotous town than any other outside the goldfields.
At last I stopped in front of the house for which I was looking. The first room I entered (known locally as the ‘bar-room’) was a large area without stools or benches, divided by a long counter into two unequal parts. A crowd of men were busy drinking in the larger of these while the landlord, a big-nosed, thick-lipped Irishman, took orders in the smaller one. A flap in the middle of the counter allowed the residents to reach their temporary accommodation. Behind the counter, against the wall, stood an enormous sideboard, prettily dressed with several rows of multicoloured bottles, fancifully labelled with the most attractive names. Barrels of ale and stout were lined up on the floor below. Side by side on the counter lay a small pump with which the landlord filled his clients' glasses and a stubby lead-topped cudgel, tangible proof that in accordance with the law of the land he would in emergency act as the constable on the premises.
‘Can I stay here for a few days?’ I asked.
The landlord looked me up and down suspiciously, simultaneously evaluating the seaman's outfit I wore and guessing the probable contents of my purse. The result of this highly critical scrutiny must have been unfavourable, for he asked ‘Have you …?’, and rolled his fingers as though he was accepting money from me.
‘I've just collected my six months' pay.’
‘Then you must be from the Woodpecker, sir,’ he said, suddenly becoming quite respectful, and with that special sweetness of tone which characterizes all the sons of green Erin. ‘Would you mind passing under the flap? It's stuck, and I can't lift it up. Please stoop a little lower. Carefully! Come to the parlour, if you please.’
The so-called parlour turned out to be a dining-room with a huge fireplace, but sparsely furnished, with a big table at present covered page 9 with newspapers, some ill-assorted chairs, an ancient looking wardrobe, and a settee on which a snoring seaman was asleep.
Prodding the poor man unceremoniously until he woke with a start the landlord invited me to take a seat. After this gentle introduction he brought me a glass of gin and while I sipped it he continued his interrogation.
‘So you want to stay here, sir?’
‘Who sent you to me, sir?’
‘A Mr N. in Australia mentioned yours as a comfortable place to stay.’
‘I must write down his name so that I will remember to treat him well when he comes back. We colonials don't forget such good friends. You have some money, of course?’
‘I've already said I have,’ I replied, slightly nettled by his persistence.
‘Don't be angry with me because I ask you again. You see, here we have two kinds of customers: those who pay in advance, and the others, who never pay at all.’
‘Haven't you got those who pay later?’
‘People like that exist only in fairy tales. No one has a larger acquaintance than a publican, and as yet I haven't met any pakehas of that sort.’
‘Pakehas? Who are they?’
‘That's what the natives call us white men. I can tell you, sir, people who eat and drink and pay afterwards without any trouble are unknown here. That's why my customers pay in advance. D'you see that picture over there of a lean dog dying of starvation? Well, that dog's name is Trust, and he's been done in by bad debtors. Every shop in Auckland has a picture like that.’
‘In other words, you want me to pay in advance?’
‘That's right. Five shillings a day or thirty shillings a week.’
I paid him a pound.
‘Would you mind following me upstairs? You'll find comfort here—even elegance. I've seen a good bit of the world—all of North America and Australia—and I can say that my establishment's second to none.’
We went through several rooms downstairs and on the first floor. We walked along dark, winding corridors. We climbed a staircase so narrow that two people could not pass on it, and when my corpulent landlord, on his way up, met his wife, who was coming down, she had to stop on the first landing to let him get by.page 10
This New Zealand building of soft native timber did not carry its years very gracefully. The boards had broken up at every joint. The nails had rusted away. None of the doors closed properly. The wallpaper was peeling off in strips. The floor and the window-panes rattled beneath our tread. Some windows at the back of the house had no glass and were stuffed with old rags, although the front looked respectable enough.
The furniture matched the quality of the building. The legs of the beds were almost eaten away by borer. The bedclothes swarmed with moths. Everything I saw must have rotted in a ship's hold for months before arriving in New Zealand. The rooms reeked of damp. Noah's Ark would have been cosy by comparison, and the fake marble fireplace in the dining-room seemed older than the frieze of the Parthenon.
‘These elegant apartments,’ said my guide, ‘are reserved for families. The single men sleep in the attic.’
We climbed more stairs, passed through more family rooms. At first I was shocked to find this muddle of shaky musty buildings, this rickety furniture, in a brand new country like New Zealand. I had constantly to remind myself that here in the colonies houses just could not be old. Why were so many of them so decrepit? Houses are certainly erected more quickly in the colonies, perhaps too quickly. Always someone is waiting impatiently to move in as soon as the job is finished, or even before. And the European furniture manufacturers, their stores overflowing with fashionable rubbish, are only too willing to get rid of it by sending it to Australia or the South Pacific islands.
We came to our destination. The landlord pushed me inside a large room, the single men's accommodation. It was situated directly under the roof. He shut the door behind him and left me alone. About a dozen narrow beds were ranged along the walls. In one corner stood an upturned barrel on which was a wash basin. Above it hung a small chain with a comb attached. Beside the comb was a broken looking-glass, so small and scratched as to be practically useless, and a wooden roller on which was a towel. This had to be spun round several times like a transmission belt before one could find a relatively dry part. All these were firmly fastened to the wall, as though the landlord feared that his boarders would otherwise make off with the lot of them.
Having washed myself thoroughly from the waist up in the fresh water provided, a pleasure which only those who have shared my recent experiences will understand, I looked frantically for a dry page 11 piece of towel. I did not find much, but what I found I used energetically.
Just at that moment I heard somebody whom I had not hitherto noticed because he was lying quite quiet on his bed, entirely covered by the bedclothes, mutter to himself in German, ‘The last dry bit of the towel has gone. I shall have to use my sheet instead.’
‘Why didn't you get up earlier?’ I asked in English. I did not see any reason why I should twist my tongue round a language which had caused me so much pain and grief at school.
‘Do you understand German, sir?’ said the voice from the semi-darkness. A dishevelled head emerged from under the blankets.
‘Yes, I do, but I don't speak it very fluently. Are you ill, sir, to be in bed so late in the morning? It's nearly mid-day.’
My new acquaintance did not answer my question at once. Visibly embarrassed, he tried to change the conversation to more general topics. His English was good, though he had that accent which no adult German can ever hope to lose. Gradually, as though physically forced to unburden himself to a sympathetic listener, he admitted that following his recent arrival in Auckland he had spent all his money. He expected to receive some more from Europe before too long. In the meantime he was in difficulty and through no fault of his own. Naturally, he knew no one here and therefore could not find a suitable occupation to earn enough for his needs.
A genteel European immigrant is not usually very successful in the British colonies. He generally hides his origins, often assumes a fictitious name, and seldom makes a hasty confession of his past. In fact he behaves as though he were a criminal. Very often he never tells even an old friend about his life at home or what made him come to the colonies. On the other hand, counting on sympathetic help, he willingly tells someone of his own class about the predicament in which he finds himself. A down-and-out European looks for a friend amongst his own kind, knowing that a well-to-do settler will be of no help to him.
I learnt from the German that he had kept alive by selling the few possessions he had brought with him, and by the cheap tricks he had picked up from the colonials.
‘So you're trying to deceive your hunger by staying in bed?’ I asked him, with the fellow feeling one vagrant has towards another.
‘I do what I can. All the local pubs serve snacks free for their clients. Thanks to that I've lived somehow. No drinking though, and I only sleep here. It's the one expense I can't avoid.’page 12
‘Well, in that case the landlord should supply you with a clean towel. So what did you blame me for?’
‘If I asked him for a clean towel he would tell me that what's good enough for ten honest Irishmen is good enough for one damned Deutsch. You won't believe how these people hate my countrymen. From South America to Australia I've heard nothing but insults. Still, we'll survive it and go to every country in the world until there will be so many of us that we shall take over the lot.’
‘But until that happens, what do you intend to do?’
‘I don't know. I don't suppose the mail will come before the end of the month.’
‘What's your name?’
‘Charles von Schaeffer, at your service. You can check that in my Prussian passport. I travel half as tourist, half as adventurer. I was in South America for some time, then in Mexico where I fought for Maximilian. I almost lost my life there. At the last moment I managed to board an Australian boat bound for Melbourne. In Australia I moved from one place to another and saw a good part of the continent. Eventually I decided to come to New Zealand. Here I have found nothing but bitter disappointment. The only choice I have is either to join the militia or jump into the sea.’
‘I would have thought that after seeing so much of the world you would be free of the Old World prejudices and know that work is better than soldiering or suicide. What can you do?’
‘I know a bit about engineering, a few foreign languages. But all that is quite useless here. Who will accept me? Who will vouch for me? You know yourself that the British and Americans have enough people of their own looking for an easy job. They can do very well without foreigners. Tradesmen … labourers, well, that's a different story: but you can't expect a gentleman, the heir to a nobleman's estates, to toil like a common peasant! Besides, what could I do with these hands?’
So saying he showed me his hands, which were sunburnt but effeminate, typical of the wealthy youth in certain European countries who, unlike their British counterparts, never touch oars, tennis racquets, or anything else that could develop their muscles.
It is hard to believe that the descendants of the wealthy lands-knechts, who were stalwart enough in body if not always in character, have changed so thoroughly into comfort-loving, irresolute weaklings.
Mr Schaeffer's hands reminded me of numerous apparently well-educated Europeans who, God only knows why, have exchanged their old established world for a new life in the colonies. Such hands page 13 are often clever. They can write sensibly, draw with artistic feeling. But to employ them as they have been trained needs contacts, influential friends, capital, none of which their holders possess. There is no worse augury for the new settler than soft hands. Every time I saw such a pair I thought of the wretched moments their owner must have experienced; how he must have searched in vain for suitable employment; how he must have been humiliated, laughed at, and rejected. Some such men even end by committing suicide. In a healthy colonial society where many shrewd and tough poeple are ready to make the most of their new conditions the puny incompetent scions of the Old World rapidly become outcasts, useless alike to themselves and to their new country.
Taking pity on the soft hands of my new friend I invited him to dine with me. When he got out of bed I saw him to be almost fully-clad. All he needed to complete his attire were his shoes. He looked so dirty that I had to lend him some of the clothes which I had made for myself. Even so, the effect was rather ludicrous for Mr Schaeffer was about six inches shorter than I and much thinner. But since he was young, still in his twenties, and quite good-looking, with long flaxen hair and expressive blue eyes, even these inadequate garments looked passable on him.
Having spruced him up. I cried, ‘And now to dinner. Everything must be fresh—meat, bread, vegetables, butter, and of course, the water too. A man who's served on a sailing ship for six whole months and who is quite young, with good teeth and a 23-year-old stomach, is in a hurry for such a feast.’
Von Schaeffer was in a hurry too. We descended the staircase at a run and entered the dining-room just in time to see the table being set for dinner.
The landlord entertained us for a few moments, grumbling about the present situation.
‘This damned war!’ he complained. ‘You won't credit the harm it's doing. Since the Maoris ceased to supply the town the price of farm produce has gone up out of all proportion. And why? Because the white farmers make their profits by skinning us alive. We hotel-keepers can't double our board so easily. We can't even increase the price of beer. One glass costs sixpence and since a sixpence is the smallest coin in circulation the only thing we could do would be to make a glass of beer cost two sixpenny bits—but nobody would pay that price, so there you are.’
He probably intended to spoil my appetite for the fresh food for which I had waited so long. But it was quite in vain. An impartial page 14 judge watching the table would have seen the justice we did to the plentiful courses. They disappeared at an astonishing rate, despite the landlord's jeremiad and the cook's frightful ignorance of the culinary art. The bushmen, farmers, and tradesmen gathered round the table with their families proved excellent trenchermen, more than a match for a famished seaman and his German friend. The settlers' appetites are greatly to be admired, and may be attributed to the plentiful fresh air, and the active life they lead.